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Expanded child care key to boosting workforce participation
Caroline Corona   on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Lack of affordable child care is one of the biggest barriers to completing education and workforce training, especially for women. A 2016 study from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research showed that insufficient child care was among the most-cited reasons women don’t complete job training. Economic developers and policymakers are taking notice and expanding affordable and flexible child care options to help parents get the training they need.

Generations Advancing Together for Education (GATE) in Boston is addressing this issue by synchronizing childcare and training programs (NextCity). Established by Action for Boston Community Development and funded by a Department of Labor grant, GATE provides free child care during job training and for 90 days after, giving participants the flexibility to develop skills for new jobs. So far, 45 parents have completed job training through GATE, and 36 are employed.

In Grand Forks, North Dakota, financial assistance through the state-owned Bank of North Dakota is available to fund child-care centers (Grand Forks Herald). “It’s a major workforce development issue,” remarked one Grand Forks council member. The bank’s Flex PACE program buys down the interest rate on commercial bank loans and has also been used to pay for affordable housing.

The state of Wisconsin also increased subsidies for child care. The Wisconsin Shares program subsidizes quality child care for low-income families and will soon expand to accommodate more working parents.

As companies continue to suffer from a lack of available workers, more economic developers and policymakers may want to consider expanding childcare options as a tool to grow the local workforce.

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