Housing gets the biggest headlines when it comes to our community challenges, and rightfully so. Our businesses are struggling to attract and retain workforce, and the workforce shortage is resulting in reduced business hours and select day of week closures. But housing isn’t the only challenge in getting people back to work.
An additional critical barrier standing in the way of getting people back to work is childcare. We see the this challenge both nationally and in Eagle County, where 73% of employers report that employees experience finding child care is a major frustration or could be better. The employee experience with childcare access & availability is second only to housing on the ability to attract, hire, and retain employees.
Childcare is a workforce issue around the country, and prioritizing investment in the following ways will help to overcome this barrier writes Cheryl Oldham, the US Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President of Education Policy in a recent op-ed in The Hill:
- Investments in the childcare workforce. In the short term, states can offer incentives such as signing bonuses for childcare workers to return to work, and retention bonuses for established early childhood educators. In the long term, continued education grants and apprenticeship programs to support early childhood educators can meet the incredible demand for quality childcare.
- Supporting working parents. States can and should invest in their data infrastructure. By creating databases that monitor the type and supply of childcare available to communities, families, and childcare providers both benefits.
- Investing in the business side of childcare. Stabilizing and growing the childcare industry is a must. Grant and loan programs to stabilize existing childcare programs and launch new, quality options will prevent childcare deserts from growing, promote innovation from providers, and increase options for families.
Lack of available and accessible childcare is a contributing factor in decisions not to return to work. Nearly one in four unemployed Americans cite childcare and other family needs as a factor in why they are not actively looking for work, according to a study from earlier this year. Those one in four not actively seeking work say agree with the statement: “The need to be home and care for children or others in my family, during the pandemic, has made it difficult or impossible to search for full-time employment, right now.”
Additionally, nearly one in four (23%) say they do not have the skills or experience necessary for most of the jobs available right now, while 28 percent say a lack of available jobs in hard-hit industries are keeping them from returning to work. Another 26% say COVID-19 concerns are still a factor. There is no silver bullet to our workforce shortage.
We are facing workforce challenges that are unlike any in recent memory; too many jobs are available, and we do not have enough people in our workforce to fill them. The result: Too many businesses that can’t grow, compete, and thrive.
Barriers to employment like housing, childcare, transportation and receiving training and development stop talented candidates from taking a job, and result in talented people leaving Eagle County for other areas with a lower cost of living.
The solution is to add workers by removing barriers. Removing barriers to our key challenges of housing and childcare is an investment in our community, in our people, and at the same time an investment in our economic infrastructure.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com