COLUMBIA, S.C. (courtesy columbiasc.edu) — Since 2018, Columbia College’s Alternative Pathways to Educator Certification (APEC) program has served the local community to help employees of partnering school districts acquire their teaching certification. Through coursework and mentor-led experience in the classroom, APEC participants graduate from Columbia College with a teaching certificate as well as a Master’s in Education. Because of the efficiency, innovation, and dynamic results observed through four years of grant-writing, fundraising, lobbying, and educating, Columbia College’s APEC program has been named by the U. S. Department of Labor as the first registered apprenticeship program for teachers in the state of South Carolina, and it has been awarded grant funds to support the constantly-growing program.
Cleveland Williams, U.S. Department of Labor representative, shared, “APEC being recognized as a registered apprenticeship program indicates that the program meets or exceeds (and in this case, greatly exceeds) current national K-12 teacher apprenticeship guideline standards. This program is an opportunity for South Carolinians to educate South Carolinians, and the Department of Labor is honored to be a part of this historic step in APEC’s and Columbia College’s history.”
Unfortunately, society is keenly aware of the national teaching shortage crisis. Each year, our nation loses more and more of the key figures in our community charged with educating the future. According to APEC Director Dr. Marla Sanders, APEC was Columbia College’s local solution to this nationwide problem. Alternative certification is not a new idea, but Dr. Sanders shared that Columbia College wanted to do it differently, placing an emphasis on the valuable teacher preparation that comes through the experiential leadership the APEC program provides.
“We are constantly searching for new initiatives that meet the needs of our district partners. The partnership buy-in is key to the success of the program. Columbia College provides the teaching instruction, but the districts provide the on-the-job training, which is what apprenticeship is all about,” said Dr. Sanders.
In the four years since the program’s inception, 68 teachers have entered the workforce. APEC is actively working against a national crisis within the local community, bettering the lives and careers of graduates along the way. Some graduates have shared with staff that because of the APEC program, they are able to purchase homes for the very first time. Their certification provides them unlimited potential in their field, and they can chase their dreams while holding full-time jobs that keep their families afloat. Columbia College’s APEC program has enriched the lives of so many in such a short time. The impact of this program can already be felt deeply within the Midlands community, and with continued community support the possibilities are limitless.