PA tries to address teacher shortage by training TAs to become certified educators

16 January 2024- The Shapiro Administration today announced a $379,000 grant to Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit to develop an apprenticeship program for teachers — a first-of-its-kind effort to address staffing shortages in Pennsylvania schools and create earn-as-you-learn opportunities for individuals interested in careers as certified elementary and secondary teachers.

The Departments of Labor & Industry (L&I) and Education (PDE) partnered to address Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage in early 2023 by expanding the apprenticeship model in the education sector through the creation of the Certified Teacher Registered Apprenticeship Program in Pennsylvania (TAP.PA). TAP.PA aims to provide training for individuals like paraprofessionals and teachers’ aides who want to become certified elementary and secondary teachers. 

“Fewer people have pursued teacher certification in Pennsylvania in recent years, and that’s created staffing challenges in schools throughout the Commonwealth. The Shapiro Administration is committed to reversing this trend through targeted investments in our workforce. The Certified Teacher Registered Apprenticeship Program moves us closer to big-picture solutions while providing real career opportunities for individuals dedicated to the education of our children,” said L&I Secretary Nancy A. Walker. 

The Shapiro Administration selected Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit to design a registered apprenticeship program that school districts across Pennsylvania can use as a template for teacher career pathways. Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit has been tasked with building a sustainable model for teacher training that includes strong partnerships with various stakeholders, including community colleges, higher education institutions, workforce development organizations, government agencies, and local education agencies. These partnerships, encompassing a wide geographic range, are key to addressing the unique needs of urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Key aspects of TAP.PA include:

  • Curriculum Development: Aligning with Pennsylvania’s educational standards and teacher certification requirements, it integrates existing coursework and offers flexible learning methods. The program adopts a competency-based apprenticeship approach, blending practical on-the-job training in school settings with classroom instruction.
  • Diverse Pathways: Tailoring a program for both paraprofessionals and emergency-certified teachers, ensuring their alignment with Pennsylvania’s teacher certification criteria.
  • Mentorship and Diversity Training: Focusing on enhancing inclusivity and equity within the educator workforce.

Schools throughout Pennsylvania face significant barriers to adequate staffing levels of well-qualified teachers. According to an analysis conducted by the Penn State College of Education’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, the number of teaching positions filled by individuals on an emergency permit has increased significantly compared to the number of newly certified teachers who participated in state teacher preparation programs. Additionally, while there are currently more than 30 registered apprenticeship programs in the education sector throughout Pennsylvania, most are focused on the early childhood education workforce.