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Starting Early Begins With… Economic & Workforce Stability

Hear from a diverse group of experts about the critical role early learning centers and schools play in the reopening of our economy.

January 14, 2021
  • COVID-19
  • Early Learning and Care
  • Blog
  • Presentation

Countless families continue to lack access to child care, early learning programs or in-person instruction as a result of the ongoing pandemic. In our final Starting Early Begins With… event, a diverse group of experts discussed the dismal state of our workforce and what needs to be done at corporate, provider and policy levels to reopen our early learning programs equitably and safely. Panelists included:

  • Dr. Theresa Hawley, First Assistant Deputy Governor, Education, State of Illinois
  • Peter J. Holt, CEO and General Manager, HOLT CAT; Co-Chair, Early Matters San Antonio
  • Angela Lampkin, Director, Educare Chicago
  • Cheryl Oldham, Vice President of Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • Moderator: Diana Rauner, President, Start Early

Watch the Webinar Recording

The discussion kicked off with first-hand reflections on how and why America’s workforce has diminished to what it is today. As early learning and care programs have closed or pivoted to virtual settings, many families are facing tough decisions about whether to leave jobs or hire additional assistance to properly care for their children. Others have lost jobs and are unable to afford to send their children to private providers.

The sad reality is that women have been hit harder by this recession. Not only are women voluntarily leaving careers to care for children, but they are also a staple of industries struggling most, such as hospitality or dining. Each month, hundreds of thousands of women — nearly eight times more than the number of men — are dropping out of the U.S. labor force. In September 2020 alone, about 617,000 women left the workforce, compared to only 78,000 men.1

As one panelist noted, these staggering statistics “cut at the knees” of the work that employers have done to build a more diverse workforce that includes women and minority leaders. “It’s a wakeup call,” the panelist added. “We need to help [employers] to understand the things they can do to support employees, and specifically women employees.”

Another panelist noted that in some cases, state and policymakers are responsible for ensuring the right supports are in place for working families. For example, in Texas, the state included child care centers when labeling and defining what is essential.

When asked how we collaboratively reopen programs and businesses successfully and equitably — while also supporting the needs of families and young children — panelists shared the following:

  • flexibility and adaptability
  • grace and understanding for families
  • matching our dollars with intention
  • examining how work and life work together

These critical phrases showcase that there are, in fact, promising actions that can be taken to address the complex and unprecedented issues we delved into during this event. Diana closed by reinforcing that as a society, “We need to acknowledge that these children are everyone’s responsibility… We as a community and as a nation have to find ways to support parents and not pretend that it’s a private thing that they do on the side when they’re not at work. But, rather, that it’s critically important that we provide the supports – social supports, maternal supports, health supports and, of course, child care.”

Thank you again to our panelists for spending time with Start Early and sharing such relevant and critical information with all who attended.

Starting Early Begins With…

Early Childhood Advocacy. Prenatal & Maternal Health Care. Economic & Workforce Stability.

About the Series

Decades of research have proven that quality early learning and care programs can have positive multi-generation impact, lifting families out of poverty and setting a foundation for success. Start Early invites you to a three-part discussion series with experts who will offer critical solutions to make equal opportunity to these programs a reality. While each virtual event offers a different perspective and topic, this series comprehensively covers concrete and evidence-based solutions for combating one of society’s most complex problems – generational poverty.

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