Illinois Business Leaders Convene to Share Perspectives and Discuss Potential Solutions to the Child Care Crisis
Workforce success and child care access, quality go hand in hand
Child care has come to the forefront of major concerns for employers as their workforce faces the challenges of insufficient child care availability and lack of affordability, especially when it comes to infant and toddler care. This impacts both hiring and retention. Business needs and the child care crisis go hand in hand: Businesses can’t succeed without productive employees, and parents can’t maintain their jobs or succeed at work without a robust early childhood system to help their families.
Employers and other presenters at ReadyNation Illinois’ January 18th webinar, “The Business Sector Role in Solving the Child Care Crisis: Opportunities & Success Stories,“ explored these challenges, potential solutions, and the role of private sector and government investment.
The presentation highlighted Effingham County, in south central Illinois, where civic leaders, business execs, and service providers are working to address their community’s sizable need for more child care. Courtney Yockey, Chair of the Effingham County Childcare Research Committee, discussed the County’s in-depth work to assess the needs and develop strategies to address local child care challenges. He noted, “child care isn’t just so parents can return to work and businesses can thrive, but we also need high quality early childhood education that really lays the foundation for school and career success.”
Local government efforts in Effingham County have been complemented by private sector efforts at Stevens Industries. The manufacturing firm has opened an on-site child care center and—in a survey—97 percent of its employees supported this endeavor.
As part of the study we looked at the number of people who were willing to work but couldn’t because of the challenge they were experiencing with child care. The number was very high.
Todd Wegman, President & CEO, Stevens Industries, Teutopolis
Although few businesses have the capacity to build an on-site child care center, there are other opportunities for companies to help meet the child care challenges of their workforce. Options include flexible scheduling, child care benefits, reserving spots in community child care centers, and more. In talking about the work of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to support businesses in addressing the child care needs of their workforce, Aaron Merchen, Director, Policy and Programs, Center for Education and Workforce highlighted the need to engage employees who are parents and child care experts, “knowing that child care is a big topic to think about as an employer, essential to our economic structure, and deeply personal means it requires up-front research with experts.” The webinar also explored the larger context of child care challenges and policy implications as well as the need for public investments in child care at the state and federal levels.
I think we’ve got some really great opportunities at the state level for business leaders to become involved.
Bryan Stokes, Director, Education Portfolio, Robert R. McCormick Foundation
Illinois has the 2021 recommendations of the bipartisan Early Childhood Funding Commission as a roadmap to create structural, sustainable improvements, a plan that ReadyNation strongly endorses. Birth to Five Illinois is a new and related effort, working at the local level across the state to engage stakeholders in developing solutions to child care challenges.
A bottom line-conclusion: Even with the contributions of private employers and local government entities, economies of scale dictate that many of the answers to our child care challenges have to come from public resources and public commitments to doing better—that’s how sizable, structural, and sustainable improvements will be made. Working and communicating with policymakers is something all employers and businesses can do to help pursue systemic solutions.
The webinar can be viewed below, and was a companion piece to ReadyNation Illinois’ report released the same week, “Solving the Child Care Crisis: A Shared Public-Private Responsibility.”
Webinar Highlight Video: