In 2019, the Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL) coordinated a robust stakeholder engagement process that resulted in Hawai‘i’s 2019-2024 early childhood state plan, Our Keiki, Our Future. The state plan identified a well-prepared, well-supported, adequately compensated, and highly qualified workforce as a fundamental building block of its proposed comprehensive approach to supporting early childhood. In so doing, the plan highlighted extreme shortages as a necessary focus area:
There are critical workforce shortages in health and early childhood care and education areas. Coordinated workforce development and ongoing professional development opportunities are needed to positively impact children’s long-term developmental outcomes.
These findings build upon the 2017 “Hawai‘i Early Learning Needs Assessment” (ELNA) conducted by the University of Hawai‘i Center on the Family and Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network, which found an “…urgent need for worthy wages which is by no means unique to Hawai‘i, but is exacerbated by our extremely high cost of living.” The ELNA also recommended “strategic investments in a skilled and stable early childhood workforce” while noting the fundamental interplay between wages, conditions, and professional learning.
EOEL subsequently led a multidisciplinary team of representatives from higher education and other state and local partners, to develop an accompanying action plan focused on the ECE workforce. The resulting “Quality Workforce Development and Supports: Strategic Implementation Plan” provides the primary framework for many of the key initiatives described in the ECE³ Project.