Members of the Kentucky business community testified in front of the Early Childhood Education Task Force meeting on Tuesday to discuss child care needs across Kentucky and innovative employer-led solutions to solve this barrier to workforce.
Kentucky Chamber Center for Policy and Research Executive Director Charles Aull began the testimony by saying child care is of the most pressing workforce issues in Kentucky and the nation while showing data on Kentucky’s large number of job vacancies in relation to unemployment. “There are more than two open jobs for every Kentuckian seeking work,” he said.
Aull referenced the Kentucky Chamber Foundation’s report released last year that shows workforce data over the past 20 years and defined child care as a root cause of Kentucky’s workforce crisis.
Aull spoke on the strain that child care needs have had on the economy and workforce. He shared polling data results from Kentuckians who have left the workforce: 68% said child care affected their ability to stay in the workforce, 68% said child care affected their ability to work more hours, and 20% quit their job to stay at home with a child.
Kuna Tavalin, Senior Advisor for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, shared that in the U.S., there are over 14 million people with young children who are participating in the workforce. Also, three-fourths of women who left the workforce say it is because of child care.
“Child care challenges keep almost 46,000 Kentuckians from participating in the workforce,” he stated. Solving those child care needs could increase Kentucky’s labor force participation rate drastically, he said. Aull stated that Kentucky’s child care crisis has a $2.12 to $3.23 billion cumulative economic impact in Kentucky.
Tavalin said that the first step is talking to employees and identifying needs before implementing solutions.
Business leaders from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc. and Rockcastle Regional Hospital testified alongside Aull as employers that have taken major steps to adapt to the needs of their employees.
Sandy Nott, Vice President of Administration for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK), spoke on Toyota’s Bright Horizons Child Development Center located on the Georgetown campus. Toyota established the child care center on their campus in 1993 as they saw an increasing need for employees to find child care, especially as a manufacturing plant. Because of this, the Bright Horizons center is open 24 hours a day, five days per week.
Currently, the Toyota Child Development Center has around 200 children enrolled between different rotations, with around 80 children on the waiting list. Their program has seen great success and has goals of maintaining a low staff-to-child ratio and ensuring competitive rates compared to other child care facilities.
Toyota’s Child Development Center has also experienced staffing shortages and recognizes there is not enough availability for every child of a TMMK employee to attend Bright Horizons. To further help Toyota employees, Bright Horizons offers multiple services, which include backup child care offered 15 days out of the year.
Nott encouraged other businesses to invest in child care as a way to support employees.
Twila Burdette, Child Development Center Director of Rockcastle Hospital, shared the innovative approach their facility has taken to help employees by providing child care on-site.
The Rockcastle Hospital Child Development Center opened in 2008 as a result of an employee satisfaction survey, and now, the facility sees around 60 children in its facility per day, based on employee scheduling.
As the health care industry has many types of employees, child care cost is based on a sliding scale depending on how much an employee makes. The facility also stays open until 7:00PM to accommodate differing schedules.
Burdette said their services are especially beneficial for employees who travel from other counties for work, single parents, and parents who have children with special needs.
Burdette said that both the child and parent have peace of mind when they are able to be in the same location. She shared employee testimonials, many of which said that it was a major reason why they decided to work at Rockcastle Regional Hospital.
Tavalin touted Kentucky’s work in passing House Bill 499, the Employer Child Care Partnership, and pointed to other states like Missouri, Michigan, and Colorado that are taking the lead to solve child care needs.
Aull concluded the testimony by providing recommendations from the business community, including following through on House Bill 499, stabilizing the Child Care Assistance Program, study local zoning ordinances, ensuring success of the Business Partnerships Grants, considering the Employer-Provided Child Care Tax Credit, and funding the Early Childhood Development Scholarship.
Stay tuned on The Bottom Line for more updates on child care issues in Kentucky.