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Child Care Crisis Bad for Business

Posted on April 9, 2019

Johnstown, PA (April 9, 2019) –In Cambria and Somerset counties, companies are losing out on prospective hires because would-be workers can’t find quality child care for their children. Similarly, access to child care has become an obstacle for others seeking to enroll in job training programs. These and other hurdles to doing business were discussed at a recent Employer Child Care Roundtable March 26, 2019 sponsored by Johnstown Area Regional Industries (JARI) and The Learning Lamp, a leading provider of child care in the two-county area.

The roundtable discussion, which was hosted at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, brought together both employers and community-based groups who run job training programs. Participants represented businesses, organizations and other interested stakeholders such as Concentrix, Crown American Associates, Riggs Industries, JWF Industries, Barnes Saly and Company, Laurel View Village, Somerset County Technology Center, Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, PA Career Link, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Alleghenies, Divine Mercy Catholic Academy, PA Department of Human Services, PA Early Learning Investment Commission, PA Association for the Education of Young Children, and Center for Community Action Early Learning Resource Center.

The input of attendees was notably consistent—a growing number of candidates for hire and those enrolling in employment training programs cannot take jobs or commit to training schedules because they can’t find care for their children.

“Our clients are spending half the day taking a child to or picking a child up from child care,” explained Sarah Helman of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Alleghenies, who said individuals served by her agency are having a hard time finding available care, as well as care located close to public transportation.

The reality nationwide and, more specifically, in our region is that there are not enough available child care slots to accommodate the number of parents in the workforce. A recent study by the Council for a Strong America reported the economic cost of the U.S. child care crisis at $57 billion annually. Almost two-thirds of parents surveyed reported leaving work early, and more than half reported being distracted at work or missing full days of work due to child care struggles.

Amy O’Hara of Concentrix, a leader in high-value global business services, said that many of her employees move to Johnstown from Pittsburgh or Philadelphia and have no local support system to rely on for help with children. That, coupled with the fact that most child care centers only operate until 6 p.m. are common problems. “Most child care centers are not open late enough to accommodate Concentrix’s shifts, which run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” explained O’Hara. “We see employee absences occur when schedules are changed, and the employee’s child care program can’t accommodate a later shift.”

Crown American’s representative at the meeting, Dicia Marguccio, added that because most child care programs are only open during the week, many of its hospitality employees find themselves without child care on weekends. Providing child care during off hours is challenging, according to Terri Siverling from the Center for Community Action Early Learning Resource Center. “It’s expensive for a center to provide care in the evenings and on weekends,” she explained. “And centers need a certain number of children attending to make it feasible to stay open.”

Cambria County currently has an average of 1,000 to 1,200 job openings a month, according to JARI Director of Workforce Development Debi Balog, who noted that the lack of child care is impacting the region’s ability to grow. Shawn Kaufman, director of Human Resources for Riggs Industries, witnessed firsthand how the demand for child care in Somerset County can impact the hiring of new workers.

“We had a qualified candidate who wasn’t able to take a job just yesterday based on the lack of available care,” Kaufman shared at the meeting.

The benefits of quality early learning programs are hard to dispute. Children who attend preschool are more prepared for kindergarten and more likely to graduate from high school. And research has found that for every dollar invested in early learning, $4 to $17 are saved in future expenses on things like special education services, crime and public assistance.

“It’s clear that quality child care and preschool are good for children,” said Leah Spangler, CEO of The Learning Lamp. “What’s often missed is that they are also good for business. People can’t go to work, companies can’t fill jobs, and our economy can’t grow without child care and preschool to meet the needs of children when parents are at work.”

Tracy Weaver of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children confirmed that concerns voiced at the roundtable are not unique to Cambria and Somerset counties. Businesses and child care providers across the state are facing the same situation. In addition to identifying child care stumbling blocks for business, roundtable participants also shared ideas and provided recommendations to address the crisis. Next steps identified by the group included raising greater awareness of the child care crisis and taking the issue before state lawmakers in Harrisburg.

For more information on the Employer Child Care Roundtable, contact Leah Spangler at 814-262-0732 ext. 223 or email her at lspangler@thelearninglamp.org.

The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. The Learning Lamp served 32,799 children and adults from 53 public school districts and 66 private schools and community organizations in 17 counties of Pennsylvania in 2018.

Our programs include: one-to-one tutoring; before/after school programs; portable classrooms aimed at building math and science skills; alternative education programs for at-risk students; evidence-based prevention programs; online learning and credit recovery; SAT preparation; educationally-focused child care; literacy-based preschool programs; and grant writing and project consulting for schools.

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