Professional Resource

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Defining Competencies for the Early Childhood Workforce

Sarah LeMoine

Abstract

Standards and competencies are critical structural supports for any professional workforce, including early childhood professionals. Workforce capacity building, career progression, and career longevity can be supported by the foundation of consistent competency expectations. Defining and embedding consistent, evidence-based competencies is a foundational step in realizing significant, sustainable improvements to infant–toddler services. Competencies can help build awareness, readiness, and capacity to change, and support exploration and adaptation in professional practice. ZERO TO THREE defined and provides competency-based education to advance effective early childhood services.

Historically, the various early childhood disciplines and the sectors within them have had different expectations for professional knowledge and competencies, rather than a single set of professional standards delineated by role; most early childhood professional standards and requirements vary according to funding streams and program type (LeMoine, 2008). Yet, professionals in these fields know providing the best services for young children and their families requires a holistic approach. Early childhood professionals play key roles in supporting and nurturing all aspects of learning and development. In the best-case scenarios, professionals partner with families; create systems of primary care; support environments that protect, engage, challenge, and nurture learning and development; and coordinate with colleagues across sectors and disciplines to provide comprehensive services (Dean, LeMoine, & Mayoral, 2016/2019).

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