Mothers of young children are more likely to leave the workforce, according to the US Department of Labor, which found that 9% of mothers with preschool children left the workforce between January 2020 and January 2021, as did 8% of mothers with children aged 6 to 12. Yet only 1% of mothers of children aged 13 to 17 left their jobs.
Many experts believe that the lack of affordable child care is the cause. Nearly half of daycares have closed their facilities during the COVID-19 shutdown, and 18% of daycares remain closed, according to a poll 2020 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This has forced many parents of young working children to scramble to find child care.
Yet in south-central New York City of Corning, parents who work at Corning Inc. don’t have to rely on family members and neighbors to help them organize a vacation. daycare because the company invests $ 2.5 million per year to fund five local community daycares. centers which welcome 400 children. Corning employees as well as community members have access to the centers and pay on a sliding scale based on income.
Access to affordable, quality child care has allowed Corning employees like Shelby Bierwiler, senior financial analyst, to continue working during the pandemic. Her 5-year-old son, Wyatt, started attending the Corning-funded Erwin Child and Family Center when he was 6 weeks old. Now he is in kindergarten and attends the Kids Adventure Club, a child care program supported by Corning Inc., which offers child care before and after school hours and during school vacations. “These childcare programs have allowed me to focus on work because I know Wyatt is taken care of as well as learning, growing and having fun,” Bierwiler said.
Childcare is a “labor factor”
Corning began funding child care programs in the 1980s when its former CEO Amory Houghton (and late Republican Congressman) recognized that the company had to provide quality child care if it was to attract and retain. top engineering talent, said Chris Sharkey, president of Corning Inc. “Child care is a catalyst for the workforce,” she said.
Since 1980, the 107-year-old company has invested about $ 75 million in child care, Sharkey says. While it might seem costly, it would be more costly to lose talented employees due to the lack of child care. “If that can help prevent some of that churn and help us attract top talent, it’s money well spent,” says Sharkey. Corning employs 60,000 people worldwide, including 7,000 in New York State.
Corning is hoping to open another daycare that would be dedicated to infants up to 3 years old because, before COVID, there was a huge waiting list for this age group, including 145 children of Corning employees, Sharkey says. Lack of care for young children began to become a recruiting issue for Corning even before the pandemic, she said. If the company wanted to recruit someone who was pregnant or had a newborn baby, they’d probably be told it would take five years for their child to have a place in daycare. This awareness would often result in the candidate declining the job offer, she said.
Because Corning is a manufacturing and technology company – among other things, it makes the glass used for the iPhone screen and vaccine vials – it is impossible for much of its workforce to work. at home, says Sharkey. Additionally, many of its employees move to Corning from other parts of the country or even the world, so most families do not have a family support network to help with child care.
Company support must be more than monetary
Corning’s support is more than financial, says Paula Detar, director of the Corning Children’s Center. “They are really invested in the work that we do,” she says. For example, when the center couldn’t get enough PPE for staff in 2020, Corning stepped in to help. Corning’s support enables the center to deliver staff development, benefits and annual increments, Detar said.
Guthrie Healthcare, which serves patients in Corning, NY, and Sayre, PA, reached out to Corning for advice on how to start its own child care program several years ago. This summer, Guthrie built and opened the Foundations Early Learning Center in Sayre, PA., In partnership with U-GRO Learning Centers in Ephrata, PA, and Discover the World Children’s Center in Sayre, PA. Guthrie invested $ 4.5 million in the daycare to provide a better work-life balance for his employees with young children, the company officials say.
Funding the cost of a new building is great, but a daycare needs more than a building to thrive, says Peigi Cook, retired director of the Corning Children’s Center, which is currently helping launch the Foundations Early Learning Center. “It’s more important to understand early childhood education – what it feels, sounds and what it takes,” says Cook. “Businesses don’t come with this understanding. “
Businesses need to understand that quality child care costs money and supports more than mothers, Cook says. “It’s an investment in the community and the employees, and the issue of economic development is not just a feminist issue of well-being. “
What other businesses can do to support child care
All companies do not have the resources to build a day care or the ability to create an immediate partnership with a local center, but there are several steps that companies can take to help provide affordable, quality care, says Sharkey .
If the company can’t help fund child care, it can provide resources to help employees find care by connecting them with referral agencies run by counties and local municipalities, or by contracting with services such as TOOTRIS, an online platform for finding local on-demand child care centers in 22 states, says Sharkey.
Companies should assess whether a local daycare would be a good partner and possibly “buy” spaces at an existing daycare to ensure employees at least have access to emergency daycare, she said. Leaders may also consider making quarterly or annual donations to a local center to help them improve the quality of care in exchange for several guaranteed child care spaces, she said.
Businesses can also work with the local nonprofit child care resource and referral agency to create a grant program for local home child care providers. For example, Sharkey is working with the Chemung County Child Care Project to create a subsidy program for home day care in Steuben County, where Corning Inc. is located, and near Chemung County. The program allows new suppliers to apply for funds to pay for items that would allow them to meet licensing requirements, such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems. “Even a modest investment of $ 500 can make a difference for a home provider,” she said.