Incentive Programs

Organization Accreditation Scholarships

National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) Accreditation

The intent of this scholarship program to promote NAFCC accreditation for state registered family and group child care homes. See the application below for criteria and how to apply.

Step 1: NAFCC Accreditation Scholarship

Step 2: NAFCC Accreditation Scholarship

Step 3: NAFCC Accreditation Scholarship

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Accreditation

The NAEYC accreditation process is designed for child care centers, preschools, school-age programs, and kindergartens. Scholarships are available to help pay the costs of the four steps in the NAEYC accreditation process and for the Annual Report fee.

Apply for this scholarship when you begin the application process with NAEYC. The Montana application for initial and renewal scholarships requests itemization of all accreditation costs. Please contact NAEYC to verify the costs of accreditation for your program. For more information about NAEYC accreditation visit their website.

Practitioner Registry Award for Achievement of GED or HiSET

Did you join the Practitioner Registry at Membership status and complete your high school equivalency (HiSET or GED)? See the application below for criteria and how to apply. 

Professional Development Incentive Award-Higher Education

This award has been developed with the goal of improving the quality of early care and education for young
children and families, by promoting early childhood education college coursework, college certificate, and degree
attainment. PDIA—HE participants may receive $1000 for completion of a minimum of 6 early childhood credits or
$400 for completion of 2-5 early childhood credits.

In order to qualify for the award applicants must meet the following requirements:

1. An individual must have a current Practitioner Registry Certificate at the time of application. ECP will check your registry status online upon receipt of your application.

2. Applicants must work a minimum of 15 hours per week in one of the following settings.

  • State registered group or family child care home
  • State licensed child care program
  • Montana Head Start of Tribal Head Start
  • Montana Child Care Resource and Referral Agency
  • Regulated Tribal child care

3. The following education will qualify:

  • College courses that lead to a national credential (Child Development Associate/CDA), Montana Child Care Development Specialist Apprenticeship Certificate, 30 College Credit Early Childhood Certificate,
  • Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Master’s Degree in Early Childhood or courses you are taking as continuing education. Verification of completion of coursework with a grade of ‘C’ or higher is required.
  • Undergraduate and graduate courses must be taken through a regionally accredited Montana college or
  • If the MT Infant Toddler or Preschool Course is being taken for 4 college credits along with additional early childhood courses, it may be used to receive this award under the 6 credits or more option. If you choose to do this, you will not be eligible to receive the $500 award for I/T course completion through the Early Childhood Services Bureau.

How To Apply


Montana Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program

Childcare Development Specialist


The Montana Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program (MECAP) aims to support and increase retention of early childhood education (ECE) providers through on-the-job training, mentorship, and college coursework. Upon completing the program, apprentices are awarded the Child Care Development Specialist Certificate from Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry and reach Level 4 on the Montana Practitioner Registry. MECAP is a Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP). A RAP is a government-run, on-the-job, paid training program model that is validated through the U.S. Department of Labor or a state agency. Traditionally, RAPs have been developed to support a range of industries and occupations across the country, including skilled trade-related occupations (e.g., electricians or carpenters).

The traditional RAP model combines four core components:

  1. Facilitating employer involvement to allow apprentices to be paid while they develop their skills
  2. Providing career-related educational instruction
  3. Offering incentives for skills gained
  4. Awarding a nationally recognized occupational credential upon completion

To develop a RAP targeting the ECE workforce, Montana’s Department of Labor and the Early Childhood Services Bureau combined their expertise to create MECAP. MECAP is one of only a few Registered Apprenticeship Programs in the country developed for the ECE workforce.

Facts about MECAP

  • MECAP started in 2004.
  • 250+ registered and certified apprentices since the program began.
  • 89% of childcare apprentices finish their program in 2 years or less
  • Childcare apprentices finish their program in an average of 17.8 months
  • Most apprentices are between 16 and 34 years of age.

Montana Universities offering apprenticeship eligible courses:

  • Dawson Community College**
  • Flathead Valley Community College
  • University of Montana Western**

**colleges/universities with an online option for completing apprenticeship courses.

Earn while you learn.

Financial incentives for those participating in an apprenticeship program (per semester):

  • Apprentice Incentive Awards up to $1000*
  • Mentor Incentive Awards $500
  • Sponsor Incentive Awards $350
  • Tax Credits to businesses wanting to become a Sponsor Program.

 *apprentices must earn a 3.0 GPA or higher in all college course work. Apprentices are eligible for up to $3000 total in incentive funding

Benefits of completing an apprenticeship:

  • Will have the support of a skilled early childhood mentor.
  • Earn 24 early childhood college credits from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • Earn a nationally recognized credential: Child Care Development Specialist.
  • 2 years of documented work experience aligned with state and national early childhood standards.
  • Move to Level 4 on the Practitioner Registry Career Path.
  • Qualify for financial incentives while enrolled as an apprentice.
  • Increase marketability to employers and job security.

To qualify for the program:

 Is an apprenticeship right for me?

The apprentice must:

  • Minimum of 16 years of age.
  • Physically capable.
  • Have the basic occupational aptitudes and language skills to be a childcare specialist.
  • Willing to commit to the program.
  • Have not achieved Level 4 on Career Path.
  • Working a minimum of 30 hours a week in a licensed childcare.

The Sponsoring program will:

  • Be licensed with MT DPHHS or Tribal Agency, Head Start, public or state funded PreK program.
  • Have a qualified on-site mentor.

Marketing to Pre-Apprentice

The Early Childhood Pre-Apprenticeship Child Development (CDA) Program is a collaborative effort between Family Connections Montana, the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), the Early Childhood Services Bureau (ECSB), and the Early Childhood Project. The Early Childhood Pre-Apprenticeship CDA is a workforce development preparatory program aimed at high school students interested in a career in the field of early childhood education that will lead to a nationally recognized Child Development Associate from the Council for Professional Recognition. 

Who is eligible for the Pre-Apprenticeship Program?

  • High school junior or senior enrolled in a high school career and technical program in early childhood education that is at least 16 years of age.
  • Enrolled in a FCS Child & Adolescent Growth and Development course.
  • Work or volunteer in an early childhood program, licensed by the State of Montana, Head Start/Early Head Start, or public funded preschool.
  • Access to a Mentor who is a Level 4 or higher on the Montana Practitioner’s Registry.

Benefits for the Pre-Apprentice, Mentor, and Sponsor Program

  • Benefits of completing the Pre-Apprenticeship CDA Program:
  • Earn a nationally recognized credential.
  • Achieve a Level 3 on the Montana Practitioner's Registry.
  • Earn 8 college credits while in high school.
  • Begin the pathway to a career in Early Childhood Education.
  • Incentives up to $400 to the Mentor upon the Pre-Apprentice’s successful completion of each class (MT Preschool Teacher Ed. And Infant/Toddler Development & Group Care)
  • Incentives up to $200 to the Sponsor Program upon Pre-Apprentice’s successful completion of each class MT Preschool Teacher Ed. And Infant/Toddler Development & Group Care).
  • The pre-apprentice's program-specific expenses are covered by ECSB and Montana Early Childhood Project. 

Requirements of the Pre-Apprentice to earn Child Development Associate

  • Enroll and complete both the Montana Infant & Toddler Caregiver and Montana Preschool Teacher certification courses (120 hours of technical instruction)
  • Complete 480 hours of professional experience in a center-based setting, preferably a STARS participating program and/or a Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program
  • Become a member of the Montana Practitioner Registry.
  • Have on-the-job supervision by a Mentor that is at least a Level 4 on the Practitioner Registry.
  • Meet the requirements to obtain a CDA from the Council of Professional Recognition.