(KFVS) - With a teacher shortage in the early childhood education profession, Dr. Diane King, Coordinator of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Education Programs at Southeastern Illinois College, recently hosted an event at the college that brought in more than 100 early childhood education professionals and students.
The fourth annual expo included more than 20 exhibitors spotlighting career and education opportunities in Illinois.
Some of the exhibitors included Southern Illinois University Carbondale Early Childhood Program; Wabash Area Development Inc. Head Start and SIUC Head Start; Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral – Gateways to Professional Development Program; Child and Family Connections - Wabash Ohio Valley Special Education District; and Project Connect – Egyptian Public & Mental Health Department.
A number of local and regional early care and education programs were represented including SIC's Mary Jo Oldham Center for Child Study (MJOCCS) and Puka School Inc. (Carbondale).
The goal of the expo, according to King is to obtain information about educational requirements for Gateways Credentials, ExceleRate Illinois, and career opportunities available locally, regionally and in the state.
"The early childhood professional pathways have a number of credentials and degree options beginning at the associate degree level and continuing on to bachelor's and master's degrees," said King. "They offer many career options ranging from teaching or being a teacher's aide or substitute in the public schools to working in Head Start; DCFS; Child & Family Connections; or any number of agencies that require early childhood backgrounds."
Keynote speaker Dr. Matt Buckman, a Licensed Clinical Child Psychologist at Egyptian Public & Mental Health Department, presented, "The Effects of Early Trauma and Adversity: Strategies that Promote Healing and Social-Emotional Development."
The attendees engaged in activities to raise awareness and consider strategies they can apply in their work with children and families.
Preschool teaching jobs are expected to increase seven percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Additionally, child care programs are a necessity when it comes to economic development, since they are the core support system for the workforce – most of whom are working families.
Early childhood education programs prepare individuals to teach and care for young children as lead preschool teachers, child care or preschool assistant teachers, family child care providers, paraprofessionals in public schools or child care center administrators.
The majority of King's early childhood students find employment following graduation.
Professionals with degrees in elementary education or another discipline can take the SIC early childhood education (ECE) courses to earn the hours required by DCFS, Gateways, and Head Start.
The program at SIC will also prepare students to continue their education at a four-year institution.
Southeastern is the only Illinois community college offering the ECE Associate in Applied Science degree in an online format.
For more information about all of SIC's online courses, visit www.sic.edu/online.