Local and national businesses discuss the importance of early childcare and its impact on retaining and attracting talent in the Central Texas region.
On November 3, Central Texas businesses joined the Greater Austin Chamber and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce for a conference on all things early childcare. The conference, To Work or Not to Work, discussed the many ways early childcare impacts the future workforce in the region.
Nearly 100 guests attended the event to hear innovative ways businesses are keeping up with the demand of childcare facilities nationally and techniques that can help top talent when faced with a childcare dilemma. Guest speakers included Lucy Davidson of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce, Caitlin Codella of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce, Malini Rajput board member of United Way for Greater Austin, Rosie Mendoza of the United Way for Greater Austin, Shay Everitt of Children at Risk, and Mandi Sheridan Kimball of Children at Risk. The conference also included a panel discussion from Cheslee Escobedo of Kindercare Education, Cynthea Rhodes-Patterson of The Home Depot, and Jessica Olson of the Austin Diagnostic Clinic.
Below are key takeaways from the event.
Understanding the new workforce millennium
American businesses depend on a strong workforce in order to compete globally. But as the U.S. enters the new millennium, a newfangled crisis is emerging: a growing shortage of skilled workers. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce, this lack of skilled workers will cost the U.S. economy nearly $1.1 trillion.
Approximately 6.9 million Americans are unemployed, millions are working part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time positions, and almost 95 million working-age adults are entirely out of the labor force. This means that “60 percent of jobs are vacant for 12 weeks or more,” stated Caitlin Codella, Senior Director of Policy and Programs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “It’s not about solving one problem. It’s about solving every entry along the way because unless you solve all of it, you aren’t going to solve anything.”
Since most Americans in their prime working years have children under the age of six, the need for reliable childcare allows them to easily enter the workforce, upgrade their skills through continued education, and ultimately remain employed. Nearly 27 percent of postsecondary students with children attain a degree within six years. Providing workers quality childcare centers “gives parents the ability to go to work,” said Lucy Davidson, Programs Manager of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “Nearly 39 percent of children are not in any form of care. The lack of a regular supportive childcare environment has significant implications on their development.”
The new workforce of toady is vastly different compared to the 1940s. For starters, half of the American workforce is women who are the primary breadwinner for their household. Additionally, two-thirds of children under five live in a household where both parents work, 8 out of 10 births are born to a millennial, and nearly 18 percent of parents’ income is spent on childcare.
Due to their parents’ schedule, children are likely to spend 10 times more hours in a childcare facility before reaching kindergarten. Thus childcare centers have a far greater impact on the development of the future mindsets of America’s workforce.
“It’s not a care versus education argument,” said Codella. “We are talking about a multi pronged solution that’s solving problems across the pipeline and school readiness is a huge piece of that. It leads to higher achievement levels and helps with intervention programs and the return on investment is there for you.”
To access the complete report, Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow, click here.
Moving toward consensus
Throughout the hour event, panelists agreed that the business case for childcare is clear—U.S. businesses loose $3 billion annually due to loss in productivity and workers needs to address “family commitments.” But for businesses who embrace early childhood education generate an incredible return on investment. Graduation rates of employees increase by 14 percent, and for every dollar spent $16 is returned.
Businesses can lead the way by becoming a business champion for early education the following ways:
- Develop strategies to implement company polices, influence the conversation of public policy, and invest in the community;
- Educate your executive leadership team about the issue and its central importance to your business;
- Find out what your employee needs are;
- Offer flexible work arrangements;
- Educate your employees about their tax and subsidy eligibility;
- Create a flexible spending account (FSA) for your employees;
- Contribute to or subsidize childcare;
- Provide access to a care marketplace or resource, or referral service;
- Provide backup care options; and
- Provide on-site childcare.
“We are asked this all the time: what state is killing it, what state is doing it the best, and what is the state that we need to look at. The answer is not one,” said Codella. “But that means that the opportunities are endless. There are opportunities for Texas to be the state that everyone looks at. Its leadership, it’s the private sector, and all of that creates a stronger workforce.”
Greater Austin Chamber
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce focuses on how the Austin Region works. We serve as the voice of business for 2,800 organizations representing a combined workforce of about 330,000 employees throughout Central Texas. Our mission is to provide leadership that facilitates the creation of a prosperous regional economy and effective advocacy for members.