Photography by Hillary Ehlen
This article is the first in a series in which United Way of Cass-Clay President Kristi Huber will be writing about workforce development. Specifically, she will be writing about some of the lesser-seen components of developing and maintaining a healthy workforce, including:
- Child care
- Mental health
- Training & development
If there’s one thing we all need to invest in as a community to solve our workforce shortage, it’s helping families gain access to affordable, quality child care. And it’s not just parents with child care on their minds but local employers as well. Child care is an issue that affects both our current and future workers. Child care is influential in parents’ career decisions, while at the same time, also helps shape tomorrow’s workers at the earliest stages of their learning.
1. Child care increases the number of available employees.
Citing data from a recent workforce development study commissioned by United Way of Cass-Clay and a number of other community partners, it’s expected that, by 2020, there will be up to 30,000 jobs to fill in the FM area, and child care was identified as one of the top strategies with the opportunities for the most impact.
When working parents can’t find affordable child care, they often face tough choices that impact their employment. They may have to decrease their hours at work or leave the workforce altogether. An estimated $30 billion in wages is lost annually by working families who do not have access to affordable child care.
2. Quality child care equals higher-performing employees.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, nearly two-thirds of mothers with children under the age of six work outside the home.
“Parents who know that their children are well cared for, safe and in a solid learning environment are able to perform better and give their full focus to their job while they’re at work,” says Erin Prochnow, CEO of the YWCA Cass Clay, which is a member of the UNITED for Child Care Coalition.
Concerns about their child’s well-being weigh on the minds of working parents, affecting their workday, their productivity and, as a result, businesses and the larger economy.
3. Access to affordable child care lifts families out of poverty.
Quality child care solves many economic challenges and promotes prosperity for all of us.
“Our UNITED for Child Care Coalition is looking at all the areas that affect the workforce regarding child care,” says Lorrie Thoemke, YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties VP of school age and early learning services. “I’m pleased that the child, parents and staff’s needs are all addressed to make a comprehensive plan for our community.”
Research shows that quality care can help close the achievement gap between children in poverty and advantaged children. That’s why we provide scholarships for quality child care.
“Since 2013, United Way of Cass-Clay has invested nearly $2 million in child care scholarships that have impacted the lives and careers of hundreds of local families,” says Thomas Hill, community impact director for United Way of Cass-Clay and leader of the UNITED for Child Care Coalition.
Data demonstrates that the local children who receive child care scholarships are on track to enter kindergarten with higher social, emotional and educational skills than children who did not receive scholarships.
“Quality early learning is the precursor to success in school and life,” says Prochnow. “Children from disadvantaged homes deserve the same chance as everyone else, and United Way helps eliminate that economic disparity.”
Research shows that child care assistance helps working parents experience fewer missed days, allowing them to work more hours and remain at the same employer for longer periods of time.
4. Child care creates the next generation of employees and community members.
Research tells us that 90 percent of the brain develops by age 5, making the early years the best opportunity to help children build a strong mental foundation for the complex social and thinking skills they’ll need to be productive and capable adults. It’s the time when children learn to how to communicate and form relationships – and their experience carries throughout their adulthood and impacts their behavior and success as an employee in the workforce.
UNITED for Child Care Coalition
Led by United Way of Cass-Clay, UNITED for Child Care Coalition is a group of local child care leaders and professionals whose goal is to create a unified approach to understanding, advocating for, and investing in critical child care issues facing parents and providers.
United Way of Cass-Clay UNITED for Child Care Coalition Members:
- Bright & Early ND
- Cass & Clay County Social Services
- Child Care Aware ND & MN
- Clay County Collaborative
- Eventide Senior Living
- Fargo Youth Commission/Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley
- Jasmine Childcare Center
- Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership
- Sanford Health
- U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.)
- Southeastern North Dakota Community Action
- The Village Family Service Center
- TNT Kid’s Fitness & Gymnastics Learn ‘n Move Childcare
- YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties
- YWCA Cass-Clay
- Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation