Persistent Problems, New Solutions

National Fund team joins network members for kickoff of childcare initiative.

If you chat with a childcare worker about their job, most will probably say they love what they do. Even so, the industry is scrambling to fill open positions, meet demand, and control costs for working families. While many childcare workers are indeed passionate about their work, childcare is one of the hardest industries in which to make a decent living — with pay for workers persistently ranking among the lowest of all workers in the US. The reality is that childcare workers need to pay their bills too. But with few options for a pay increase, good benefits, or advancement, along with expensive credential or degree requirements, many have no choice but to seek better jobs elsewhere.

Such poor job quality within an industry that underpins much of the economy is a critical system failure that is taking a heavy toll on families, businesses, and taxpayers. Access to childcare is vital to ensuring people can fully participate in the workforce. But an unstable and unaffordable childcare system has created an impossible situation for these workers. What’s more, recent studies show that the childcare crisis now costs the US economy $122 billion a year. It touches us all — whether you have kids or not.

So how do we fix this? The problem has been looked at from countless angles, and we know there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there have yet to be any real efforts to solve the job quality issue at the heart of the problem. The lack of any coordinated national response to the crisis highlights the importance of amplifying local solutions.

That is where the National Fund and our network of workforce leaders are compelled to help spark real, systemic change. This month we launched our new initiative, Shifting the Childcare Industry: Better Jobs for Better Access, in four communities around the country. Over the last decade, we’ve led the field testing and promoting promising job quality initiatives and we believe that improving the jobs in the childcare industry will attract more workers, expand entrepreneurship, and help stabilize the system.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time with our participating network members from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Des Moines, and was encouraged by the early shared vision of success. While this work is just ramping up, I’m eager to see what we will achieve together!

Later this year at SHIFT: Toward an Equitable Future, we’ll be diving deep on this issue as well as other hot topics. Register to attend today and join the conversation!

Amanda Cage

-- President and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions