Private Sector Coalition Tackles Childcare Issues

05.19.2022
GWC-Meeting-051822
Workforce

CBIA is taking the lead on a private sector coalition focused on early childhood education in Connecticut.

The coalition is a partnership with the Governor’s Workforce Council, the Council on Women and Girls, and the Office of Early Childhood Education.

GWC Meeting, Sara O'Rourke, Cathy White, Dr. Monette Ferguson, Chris DiPentima
Clockwise, from top left: McKinsey & Co. partner Sara O’Rourke, Alliance for Community Empowerment executive director Monette Ferguson, CBIA’s Chris DiPentima, and General Dynamics Electric Boat director of talent acquisition and organizational design Catherine White pictured at the Governor’s Workforce Council’s May 12 meeting.

The group is focused on expanding access to affordable and high-quality early childhood education across the state.

CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima spoke at the GWC’s quarterly meeting May 12 about the impact that improving access to affordable childcare will have on the state’s labor shortage.

Labor Shortage

“We have a significant workforce crisis in Connecticut,” DiPentima said, “and you can’t grow the economy if you don’t have the workforce you need.”

Connecticut currently has 110,000 job openings, and the state’s labor force—the number of employed residents plus those actively looking for work—has fallen by a staggering 62,700 people since February 2020. 

CBIAs’ Chris DiPentima

“If every unemployed person in the state was hired tomorrow, we’d still have more than 26,000 job openings.”

This drop represents almost 12% of the country’s losses, despite Connecticut having only 1% of the population.

“If every unemployed person in the state was hired tomorrow, we’d still have more than 26,000 job openings in Connecticut,” DiPentima said.

Impact on Women

Women in particular have been impacted significantly by the lack of accessible childcare.

Connecticut women represent 76% of the parents who reported having to stay home due to childcare issues between March 30 and April 11 in 2022—a 14-point increase over the national average.

“Nationally, men have returned to the workforce at pre-pandemic numbers, but there are still around 1.5 million women who have not returned to the workplace,” said Mark Argosh, executive director at Social Venture Partners Connecticut.

Women voluntarily leave the workplace to care for children “to a much more significant extent than men.”

In addition, 92% of private childcare providers in Connecticut are women-owned.

Sara O’Rourke, partner at McKinsey, said the firm’s research shows women voluntarily leave the workplace to care for their children “to a much more significant extent than men.” 

“This continues to be a major driver and a major concern for women,” she said. 

Childcare Needs

O’Rourke referenced a recently released survey in partnership with Marshall Plan for Moms.

The survey found women were three times more likely to lose their job relative to men since February 2020, and 45% of women identified childcare availability or expense as a reason for leaving the workforce, compared to just 14% of men.

Dr. Monette Ferguson, executive director of the Alliance for Community Empowerment, agreed. 

Families without consistent childcare “cannot join the workforce in a confident, productive way.”

She said families without consistent childcare “cannot join the workforce in a confident, productive way.”

“We learned through the pandemic that the system was not just weak, but it was fragile and it became broken.”

Moderate progress was made in the 2022 legislative session.

The recently-passed $24.2 billion state budget will invest more than $100 million to expand childcare infrastructure, boost funding for Care4Kids, and increase infancy and toddler slots by 1,300.

Goals

At General Dynamics Electric Boat, HR professionals see a wide range of issues that employees face. 

Director of talent acquisition and organizational design Catherine White said early shifts matched with short daycare hours and policies that children must attend five days a week are a few of the challenges she hears. 

“It’s some of our structural challenges that we really have to work to address,” she said.

DiPentima acknowledged these challenges. 

DiPentima

“The childcare sector is the workforce behind the workforce.”

He said the short-term priorities for the coalition include cataloging best practices in the state—such as creating a childcare system that is more flexible and accommodating to parents—and having many voices across the state speak as one.

Long-term goals are to bring a diverse cast of businesses together and find an executive director to be the “quarterback” of the group.

“The childcare sector is the workforce behind the workforce,” DiPentima said. 

“You can’t have the workforce you need if you don’t have that foundational workforce.”

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