Name of Initiative: The National Workforce Registry Alliance

Interview with: Diana Diaz, President and Kimberlee Belcher, Executive Director

Regions served: The United States

Population served: Early Childhood Workforce across the United States

Funding: The National Workforce Registry Alliance is a 501c3, non-profit organization funded primarily through membership fees, an annual conference, program service fees, and grants from allied organizations.

About The National Workforce Registry

Mission: The National Workforce Registry Alliance provides registries across the country with resources on data related support on the early childhood and school age workforce, standards of quality for workforce data systems, and a strong national voice driving relevant policies and initiatives.

Contact:

Email:  director@registryalliance.org

Website: registryalliance.org

Interview:

The National Workforce Registry Alliance (NWRA) is a national non-profit organization providing a unified network connecting state and national workforce data systems with state policy leaders, researchers, and those invested in strengthening the workforce. NWRA President, Diana Diaz, explains that “Our membership is comprised of 44 workforce registry state members and The Alliance works to aggregate states’ data, creating a national data set, providing standards of quality across the states for data collection and acting as a unified national voice on behalf of registries. All of our core values are centered around our registry members and all those that comprise the early childhood workforce.” 

Kimberlee Belcher, Executive Director, expands on the role of the NWRA within our Early Childhood system:  “Every state has its own unique system, and so the Alliance’s value to the community is creating this infrastructure that connects all of those pieces, it’s the Alliance that aggregates across states to create that national picture.  What’s unique about this component of our early childhood system is that Workforce Registries, with the assistance of the Alliance, are this bi-directional communication tool.  We use community based participatory action research strategies rather than top down approaches.  Our information is collected directly from providers for providers.”

The Aspire Registry, the early childhood workforce registry for NYS, is a member of The National Workforce Registry Alliance and has been awarded Partner Eligibility Review (PER) approval for achieving high quality standards for its data collection and operations. The Aspire Registry collects data on the early childhood workforce by tracking and verifying education and training that meet the Core Body of Knowledge (CBK) areas and use that information to place professionals in the state’s career ladder to encourage growth and development.  Diana elaborates stating that “At The Aspire Registry, we promote high quality professional development and training availability through a course and event review process with the end goal of recognizing and honoring the achievement of our essential early childhood and school age workforce. That data that is collected and it is both stored and shared with policy makers and national partners to help strengthen the workforce and reinforce quality indicators that ensure better care and education for our young children.”

Due to the population of the early childhood workforce across the country, the NWRA uses their data to inform and support a racial equity agenda across the country.  Diana outlines this stating that:  “There are plenty of opportunities on every level and aspects of our work to advance the racial equity agenda.  We are constantly evaluating our standards, career pathway, articulations, advisory structure, data collection and policies that support workforce diversity and offer equitable access to professional development and preparation. Our workforce, especially our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) continue to be undervalued and underpaid with few benefits. This is a major factor to the high turnover rate our field has faced for so many years and our children are deeply affected by this. Workforce registry data is used to reveal these disparities and to help inform policies and seek investments to achieve an equitable and fair compensation for our workforce.  In addition, with increasing demands on higher education preparation for the early childhood workforce, data must be used to inform how to support our BIPOC workforce and remove barriers that they currently face to access and complete their education.  The data needs to be used for all levels of support and accountability to pursue targeted solutions to move the needle for all students with equitable approaches. Registries collect information on education, work experience and detailed level information on coursework to inform how institutions are preparing our teachers and leaders, and identify opportunities to better support all students. Some research findings indicate that Black and Latino students are often successful in completing advanced coursework when given the opportunity but they are still not fairly represented in advanced courses. Workforce registry data can be used to ensure that states provide sufficient support for students seeking to complete and meet early childhood degree requirements.”


 The NWRA produces and participates in publications, training organization recognition, and hosts an annual conference to showcase developments, identify opportunities, and harvest collective wisdom.  Diana shares some examples of this work: “We developed a recent written testimony to the Federal Ways and Means Subcommittee on the Child Care Crisis and the Coronavirus Pandemic.  We were invited to submit written testimony and we were able to get excerpts from five of our member registries to provide data to support our testimony.  Additionally, in May the Alliance was contacted by Dr. Walter Gilliam from Yale University to collaborate on a nationwide study examining childcare providers and COVID-19 mitigation. This was one of the largest workforce studies ever attempted and state workforce data systems played a vital role in making that possible.”

The Yale study COVID-19 Transmission in US Child Care Programs was recently published on the website for Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics is the first large-scale assessment of the risk to child care providers working throughout the pandemic. The Yale team compared COVID-19 rates in child care providers who continued providing child care during the first three months of the pandemic to those who did not.

Kimberlee highlights the importance of this study: “The Yale study demonstrated what the NWRA tangibly contributes from the field to policy. When Yale attempted to do the study initially, they could not create a sample size big enough to pull off the study itself.  It was when they contacted the NWRA and organized with the states, that we could pull a pool together of close to a million providers.  We were able to show the power of putting access to informing the study into the hands of the providers themselves.  This study further highlighted the value of the alliance because it’s not easy to track 50 different systems, to know who to contact, and those are pre-existing relationships that the alliance cultivates, so we were able to mobilize that response in 2 weeks.  That’s because the infrastructure is already there.”

The findings showed that exposure to child care was not associated with an elevated risk of spreading COVID-19 from children to adults, provided the child care programs took multiple safety measures, including disinfecting, handwashing, symptom screening, social distancing, mask-wearing, and limiting group size. Early Childhood Workforce Registries, in collaboration with Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCR&Rs) and state AEYC chapters across the country mobilized to elevate the voices of the providers. Through the support of 28 states, the NWRA was able to coordinate survey access to over 700,000 child care providers. In total, Yale researchers surveyed 57,000 child care providers in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, which represented 71.3% of America’s counties (2,241 of 3,141).  Dr. Gilliam, the study’s lead author, consistently recognizes the value of workforce registries stating that “Workforce registries act as the Emergency Broadcast System for early learning professionals … When centers shut down during an emergency or crisis, registries are how we can locate and contact child care providers with vital information.”   The Alliance thanks the states and workforce registries for the impact that has been made to inform the study and investments needed to safely reopen child care programs.”

The findings from the study show that child care programs throughout the United States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico did not contribute to the spread of COVID-19 to providers. It primarily highlights the dedication and vigilance of the child care community to keep providers and families safe and healthy. The National Workforce Registry Alliance has some policy recommendations that include:

  • Sustain or increase funding for health-related items such as personal protective equipment (PPE)  and cleaning supplies for child care providers.
  • Support a continued effort to maintain infection control measures such as social distancing and wearing masks.
  •  Distribute stipend payments to child care programs maintaining low-ratio numbers to be in compliance with guidelines issued by the       Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state governments. These programs are working to maintain a socially distanced, controlled classroom environment, and some are at risk of going out of business because they are not running at full capacity and spending limited funds on PPE for staff.
  • Provide access to mental health and self-care resources for early childhood professionals to strengthen resiliency. Increase support for the emotional well-being of providers that include allowing paid time off, offering coaching support, and developing innovative approaches for licensing and professional development requirements.

The NWRA urges us to call on the support of registries as we work to develop more equitable policies and systems for early childhood.  Kimberlee explains that “Registries are unique because they are embedded with and for the workforce, that’s the place where we collect provider voices, where they have their unified voice that gets lifted up and pushes out to inform policy.  That is their data and their story. There is so much conversation around what is best for children and what best for families and I think because of the pandemic it’s also time to start talking about what’s best for providers.  The workforce registry gives providers a vehicle to tell us what they need, and then we facilitate that. Workforce registries allow us to make sure we see each member of our workforce individually and ensures that every provider counts. That collective information informs policy, and so the Alliance’s added value is that we help coordinate that across all 50 states, or to help things get out to all 50 states.  As the delivery system for workforce support, we can share what we are hearing directly from providers.”

Diana elaborates on the unique role of registries in supporting our early childhood providers: “The beauty of registries is that we collect and produce verified data.  This data is informed by the workforce, specifically those providing direct care to young children, teachers and direct care providers own their own profiles and accounts, owning their voice and their professional development, and we are putting the career pathway in front of them so they can choose the pathway they want to support their growth.  That is a powerful thing to say because we see a tremendous gap in terms of efforts and supports. The workforce needs that level of attention and recognition, not only for their hard work, but for their commitment and all the things they have offered to our field to our communities to our families to our leaders and they have sustained us through this pandemic.  The center of this work is our registry members and the big difference is that we have verified data to produce the voice that we need, not only at times of crisis but at all times.  We are going to continue to advocate for our workforce in every way possible.”