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Early Care and Education Providers Professional Development

This strategy cultivates well-prepared, highly skilled and appropriately compensated early child care professionals.  It provides education and training in community settings to professionals providing care and education to children from six weeks to age 5, not yet in kindergarten.

Regions funding this strategy

First Things First funds the AZ Early Childhood Workforce Registry, part of the AZ Early Childhood Career and Professional Development Network

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Funding Plan Highlights

Pima North, Pima South, Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation

The United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona’s (UWTSA) Great Expectations for Teachers, Children, Families and Communities (Great Expectations) offers comprehensive professional development opportunities to the four regions of Pima County; Pima North, Pima South, Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tohono O’odham Nation. This grant represents a collaborative effort that involves 14 partners offering 17 Communities of Practice (CoP) that work together to offer meaningful professional development while building an accessible professional development system that includes offering pathways to higher education. The intent of the program is for a better prepared cadre of early childhood professionals in their work supporting young children from ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. 

The UWTSA serves as the administrative home and backbone of the grant to ensure coordination, capacity, infrastructure sustainability and the deliverables of the grant are met. In addition, UWTSA takes a leadership role in helping build a professional development system in Pima County, including addressing barriers and issues associated with accessing and attending higher education institutions. The partnership has been instrumental in connecting early childhood professionals with scholarships through First Things First statewide strategy, Registry and College Scholarships and enrolling in the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Registry. 

Santa Cruz

In the Santa Cruz Region, there is an inadequate amount of professional development resources available for early childhood professionals seeking to increase their knowledge of early childhood education, development and health. There is a significant need to provide more local professional development opportunities. Presently, there is not a professional development system in the region that offers a series of professional development sessions by a credentialed subject matter expert connected to the Registry. Typically, professionals have to travel to Tucson or Phoenix to attend professional development sessions. Furthermore, the early childhood professional population is unique in Santa Cruz County. To that end, the Santa Cruz Regional Partnership Council is funding a pilot Capacity Building Strategy in the region beginning in State Fiscal Year 2021. This strategy aims to build the capacity of the professional development system in the Santa Cruz Region by offering comprehensive professional development, supporting the unique needs of English and Spanish speaking early care and education professionals. This approach will also help inform the regional council and stakeholders of the demand and actual usage of early childhood professionals accessing professional development locally. As part of this agreement, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office will provide 25 early care and education professionals with six 2.5- to 3-hours of professional development in the region, each offered every other month. Each early care and education professional enrolled in the series will attend at least four of the six sessions offered with the intent and encouragement that professionals will attend 100% of sessions. Topics covered will include early childhood education, development and health.  All sessions will be taught by a credentialed professional or early care and education expert.  Translation services will be available to Spanish speakers using translation equipment arranged by First Things First. 

The intent of this strategy is to build capacity in the Santa Cruz Region for professional development to be offered to English and Spanish speaking early care and education professionals.  By piloting a professional development program that will be offered to 25 early care and education professionals every other month, the grantee will identify whether there is interest among early care and education professionals for continued professional development in the region.

Tohono O’odham Nation

In State Fiscal Year 2019, approximately 43 early childhood professionals were committed members of the Community of Practice, A’al Ha-Mascam (Children and their Learning) through the Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC) in partnership with the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. The early childhood professionals who participated in the TOCC Community of Practice had the opportunity to simultaneously enroll in coursework through the college, creating a pathway of higher learning. From a system-building perspective, TOCC, a key system partner working in partnership with the regional council, continues to work closely with other higher education institutions, including Northern Arizona University, to ensure a seamless transition and pathway to see more early childhood professionals on the Tohono O’odham Nation achieve bachelor’s degrees. 


The Yavapai Quality First collaborative is a unique collaboration between Quality First coaches, child care health consultants, early childhood mental health consultants and the Arizona Professional Development Workforce Registry. These technical assistants work together to identify ways to maximize the impact of the support services they provide to Quality First providers. This includes planning joint visits and trainings at child care sites, as well as coordinating messaging and referrals to additional resources. The result has been early childhood professionals who report feeling they have the support of a team and technical assistance professionals who experience the benefits of shared work in supporting Quality First providers to achieve best practices.

Find more details about strategies related to Professional Development in the FTF Strategy Toolkit.

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