Chamber economic development panel: Child care is crucial to addressing workforce crisis

by | Nov 17, 2021

First Five Nebraska led a panel at the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s recent Economic Development Summit on addressing the state’s workforce crisis. The discussion examined how high-quality early childhood care and education bolsters Nebraska businesses, helps grow local economies and supports working parents while providing safe, nurturing environments for young children.

First Five Nebraska Director Jason Prokop moderated the conversation, which also included Marti Beard, vice president of early childhood programs at the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation; Diane Temme Stinton, CEO of TMCO, Inc., and child care providers Kyla Habrock of Hastings Early Child Development Center and Erin Branch of Branch Ranch Child Care in Lincoln.

In his opening remarks, Prokop noted that while Nebraska consistently ranks among the highest of all states with all available parents in the workforce, child care challenges remain, with 91 percent of Nebraska counties lacking sufficient child care capacity. “There are challenges when it comes to getting access to child care for working families; challenges when it comes to low wages and professional pathways for those who make up the child care workforce; challenges when it comes to cost—parents can’t afford to pay more and providers can’t charge more without it resulting in parents leaving the workforce to care for their children,” he said.

State Chamber survey results graphicProkop’s remarks mirror the results of the recent Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s member survey and listening sessions. Approximately 300 business leaders statewide weighed in on the top issues or opportunities impacting business and community growth. Over half of respondents (54%) ranked child care and education as a top opportunity or challenge for economic recovery.

Study shows $745M in losses annually
Inadequate child care also costs Nebraska nearly $745 million annually in direct losses, Prokop said. The data comes from The Bottom Line, a First Five Nebraska study conducted with the University of Nebraska Bureau of Business Research. The total includes $489 million in losses in working parent income due to foregoing promotions or absenteeism; $234 million in lost workplace productivity and employee turnover and $21 million in unrealized state tax revenue.

Graphic showing results of the Bottom Line studyChild care is the workforce behind the workforce and is crucial for our state’s economic recovery, said Prokop. “If you’re having any type of conversation about economic development, whether it’s within your business or at your local chamber of commerce, in your community or at the state and local governmental levels, you aren’t really having a complete conversation unless child care is a part of that discussion,” Prokop said.

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