We think of childcare as a quality-of-life issue, which it is. Yet, accessible and affordable childcare is also important to economic development due to its impact on workforce availability.
We have known for well over a decade that the region is lacking when it comes to the availability of childcare. Most recently, in 2019, the Child Care Coordinating Council of the north country issued a report indicating that 86% of north country census tracts were identified as childcare deserts, meaning there is not enough childcare to meet local needs. For example, in Lewis County there are 7.8 children for each regulated childcare slot available and 94% of the county is considered a childcare desert. In Jefferson County, there are 6.7 children for each regulated childcare slot available and 100% of the county is considered a childcare desert. Unfortunately, this lack of affordable and accessible childcare has an economic impact.
The availability of a skilled workforce is critical to business productivity and competitiveness. It is important to our retaining our existing businesses and keeping them healthy. In today’s environment, when a new business is considering locating in a community, one of the first questions they ask is whether that community can provide the workforce they need to operate. So, what does childcare have to do with that?
The lack of affordable childcare is an impediment to many people entering the workforce. It can keep those home who already have marketable skills and education, as well as those who might take advantage of various training programs to acquire in-demand skills if they only had someone to care for their children while pursuing such training. Employers across the region have regularly cited the lack of childcare as an impediment to their recruitment efforts and a contributor to employee absenteeism.
In a 2020 survey of 80 businesses across the seven-county north country region, childcare was identified as a top priority by employers. They indicated this was a pre-COVID issue impeding recruitment efforts and affecting employee attendance, and that it was only exacerbated by the pandemic.
Over time, in various roundtables and workshops on this topic, increasing the availability of home-based daycare has frequently been identified as a priority strategy. Although institutional daycare facilities remain an important provider of childcare services, they face many regulatory issues, are costly to establish and operate, and have their own challenges in attracting personnel. It is faster to facilitate the establishment of multiple home-based providers which may be more flexible accommodating parent work schedules.
We now have an accelerated program designed to empower, educate, and launch new regulated home daycare facilities in Jefferson and Lewis counties. The North Country Regulated Home Day Care Training Bootcamp is now seeking participants interested in starting their own home-based day care service.
The program was initiated by Lewis County Economic Development and the Lewis County Planning Department, who brought together Jefferson Community College, the Community Action Planning Council (CAPC), and the Watertown Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and Jefferson County Economic Development to design a program that will educate, train and enable individuals to start their own in-home childcare business. The project helps address a critical need while also creating economic opportunity for the providers as they establish new home-based businesses.
How It Works
The free program begins with an orientation session in June, followed by health and safety training with CAPC and entrepreneurial training with the SBDC in July and August. Advanced entrepreneurial training sessions will begin in September, followed by a credit-bearing course at JCC, Introduction to Early Childhood Care & Education (ECD 101), which begins in January 2022. The program also offers students a $360 childcare stipend to help with those costs during classes. A unique element of this program is that it provides expert instruction in childcare and development along with training and technical assistance from the Small Business Development Center in running the business side of home-based childcare.
Registration and program information can be found on JCC’s events calendar or by contacting CAPC at (315) 782-4900, ext 240.