AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new program launched by Austin Community College this summer is working to minimize teacher shortages impacting school districts throughout the Central Texas region.

Thirteen candidates are part of the program’s inaugural year in operations, said Michelle De León, ACC’s teacher residency coordinator. Those candidates completed program coursework this past summer before beginning this academic year working alongside a classroom teacher to have hands-on experience.

Right now, ACC is collaborating with three area school districts on the residency program. As the school begins preparations for year two of the program, De León said she hopes to see more district partnerships to help build out a local talent pipeline.

“[The program has] been a wonderful success,” she said. “Getting that hands-on experience has been really great for them, and we’re getting great feedback from the residents, from host teachers, from campus principals and from the district-level personnel, as well.”

When it comes to teacher residencies, De León said it’s a great opportunity for people who’ve already graduated with a bachelor’s degree but aren’t certain yet if they want to stay in their current industry.

“We see the need for quality educators in our school systems, and those that are going to stay in the system,” she said, adding: “You can come to us, get your teacher certification, get that hands-on training through our teacher residency program, and research shows that you’re going to be more happy in your first year in the classroom [with residency programs] and you’re gonna stay in the classroom as a classroom teacher.”

Those undergoing the residency right now will finish out the academic year before hopefully being recommended for certification in May. Once fulfilling all the requirements — the coursework, the residency placement and state-level testing — they’ll be able to progress into the industry. Those participating in the residency program are also paid as an educational aid, something De León said she hopes minimizes any economic barriers for prospective participants.

“Getting paid while you’re in that placement is extremely important to people because obviously, so many of us can’t go 16 weeks without getting paid while we’re completing an internship. And we know that that can create some inequity in who is able to become a teacher, quite frankly,” she said. “People are getting the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and, in some instances, their dream to become a teacher and to serve the community.”

More details on the residency program, as well as ACC’s standard teacher certification program, are available online.