The West Side Works program is taking on the shortage of early-childhood educators in Washington County by creating paid-internship opportunities for Early Childhood Education (ECE) students. The program reached a milestone early this year when Victoria Musangu became the first West Side Works participant to complete her 300-hour internship and earn a $1,000 stipend.

But Victoria’s success didn’t end there. Not only did she complete her 300 hours and earn her stipend, but she was hired on at Mindful Montessori in Beaverton, where she served her internship. Testimonials from her supervisor underscored Victoria’s exemplary performance throughout the program, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to host Victoria at their site.

Victoria was introduced to West Side Works via an email sent to ECE students at Portland Community College. Right away, she was interested in the opportunity to develop her on-the-job childcare experience as a way to complement her schoolwork and be a more competitive job applicant. When asked about what the program provided, Victoria highlighted a few things.

“The program offered me a choice of two or three worksites, above-minimum wage payment — even as someone with minimal experience in childcare — and increased pay because the school I worked at was interested in someone who was bilingual,” she said. “The system to access timesheets and pay stubs was very simple. My career coach was always reaching out, updating reminders on things I didn’t know or forgot.”

While she found the internship both instructive and enjoyable, Victoria likes the outcome even more.

“This internship offered me a job!” she exclaimed. “I work now as a full-time Assistant Teacher in the toddler room. They offered me flexible hours for school, like having my Tuesdays off to study and go to my online classes, and I get paid $20 an hour with a sign-on bonus after 90 days.”

For her internship and now job, Victoria enrolled in the Central Background Registry (CBR), a statewide list of people approved to work at child care facilities. She underwent 15 hours of ORO [Oregon Online Registry] training, including safe sleep, Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse & Neglect (RRCAN), Introduction to Child Care Health & Safety (ICCHS), Foundations For Learning (FFL), CPR, and First aid, specifically for infants and toddlers.

“Since it is a Montessori school, they work differently than Head Start or other schools, so learning their methods and way of learning is something I had to adjust to as well, but now I’ve learnt a lot more,” Victoria said. “I have to be honest — I was very nervous to start out in this internship, and never assumed I was going to stay long. But now this opportunity has granted me a job in the field I love and am forever grateful.”

To learn more about West Side Works, visit https://arpa.worksourceportlandmetro.org/westsideworks/students/.

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