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Growing a Community Through a Teaching Apprenticeship

Jessica Jones pictured at work, reading to two small children
Jessica Jones at work as an early childhood education apprentice.

Jessica Jones has a goal: To change her urban Missouri community from within, by starting young children on the path to emotional and social literacy.

By participating in the LUME Institute’s Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program in St. Louis, she is gaining the tools to help little ones grow into more capable and confident young adults – as well as the training she needs for a fulfilling career. 

Growing up in a St. Louis suburb, Jessica says she didn’t have strong emotional and social connections as a child. She was interested in early childhood education after graduating from high school, but lacked the money and opportunity to further her education. Becoming a mom at 17 made pursuing a career even more challenging. To help pay the bills, Jessica worked in various clerical and odd jobs over the years. 

She learned about the opportunity to join the pilot class of the early childhood apprenticeship program through the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE). SLATE partners with the LUME Institute to place qualified unemployed and underemployed workers in this high-demand career field.

Today, the 30-year-old single mom of four is using the skills she is learning as an apprentice to improve the lives of the children she teaches at University City Children’s Center.

“I am gaining in-depth knowledge about the growth and development of children. Laying a foundation of trust early in a child’s life is going to help them grow and succeed on a personal level,” Jessica said.

Now halfway through the two-year apprenticeship, Jessica has earned a Child Development Associate Credential and is receiving regular pay raises. Upon completing the program, Jessica will have received 4,000 hours of professional development and on-the-job training, college credits, and a certificate from the Department of Labor.

Her long-term goals include completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education and one day opening her own community learning center. “I have a career now, not just a job,” Jessica said.

There are more than 540,000 apprenticeships across the country, with more opportunities added every day. Find a program or learn how to sponsor one at

Editor’s note: Jessica’s story is one example of an effective workforce program in action. View more success stories here.

Rhonda Burke is a public affairs specialist for the Department in Chicago.

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