The U.S. Department of Labor on Nov. 14 recognized Montclair State University as the first higher education institution in New Jersey to have a Teacher Certification Registered Apprenticeship Program.

The program “addresses the teacher shortage in a very specific way, providing an opportunity for aspiring teachers to realize their full potential,” MSU President Jonathan Koppell said prior to signing official documents in the University Hall Conference Center. Koppell likened the apprenticeship program to Montclair State’s AFT-partnered Red Hawks Rising teacher academy in that it is “a mechanism to add diversity to our teaching core, to create opportunities for individuals from particular communities to go back into those communities as teachers and to inspire learners to follow in their footsteps.”

“Registered apprenticeships are jobs,” said Michael Blatt, state director for the U.S. Department of Labor, ETA, Office of Apprenticeship. “They are jobs that can open opportunities for those that have never had that door opened to them before … Programs such as Montclair’s are critical in working toward ensuring these opportunities are a priority so that all individuals — regardless of their ZIP code, ethnicity, gender — have access to these viable career pathways.”

Among those attending the signing event were AFT Local 1904 President and MSU professor Rich Wolfson, who said shortly after Koppell and Blatt put pen to paper: “As a proud teacher, educator and union leader, the melding of teacher preparation and an apprenticeship program ranks at the top of the innovation scale for school district and university partnerships. There has been nothing like it in the over 115-year history of the Montclair State University teacher preparation program, and I applaud the university, the Wayne Township School District, the state and national Departments of Labor and the American Federation of Teachers for standing up to make this possible.”

“AFTNJ appreciates any initiative that addresses the teacher shortage,” AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera said on Nov. 15. “We will continue to work with locals, universities and legislators to ensure generations of students have qualified education professionals in their classrooms. However, we must also focus on strategies to retain our current professional education staff.”

ABOVE: AFT Local 1904 President Rich Wolfson (fourth from left) with Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell (third from left) and others Nov. 14 after the U.S. Department of Labor recognized Montclair State as the first higher ed institution in N.J. to have a Teacher Certification Registered Apprenticeship Program. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

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