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Chamber Foundation Offers Toolkit for Business to Take Lead on Early Learning

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce is out with a new toolkit to help businesses be better advocates for high-quality, early-childhood education.

The center released the guide this month as part of its "Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow" initiative, which examines the role early-childhood education plays in supporting workers as well as those young children who will enter the job market in the future.   

Teacher-Minority-1_900x500socialmedia_Getty.jpgSuggested ways for the business community to get involved are laid out in the report, "Leading the Way: A Guide for Business Engagement in Early Education."

"Awareness is a huge piece of this," said Caitlin Codella, the senior director of policy and programs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce.

She said there's a lack of awareness about the business case for quality, early-learning experiences, and the foundation hopes to change that.

"For us, it's about improving and expanding access to high-quality, early-childhood programs," said Codella. "This issue impacts companies large and small in a variety of ways, so the hope is that the report and toolkit provides insight and guidance for effective engagement."

The report lists several ways that the business community can take the lead on this issue, including advocating for changes in public policy at the state, local, and federal level, writing op eds, and investing in organizations and providers that support early-childhood education programs for low-income families.

The report also suggests ways that companies can help their own employees when it comes to finding quality child care. It doesn't make a distinction between care for the youngest children and preschoolers, noting that children are constantly learning from birth no matter where they are.

Suggestions for helping employees include setting up on-site child care, providing backup care options, and offering flexible work arrangements.

There's also evidence that a such a move may attract new employees. The report cites a survey that showed 83 percent of millennials would leave their job for one with more family-friendly benefits.

Making the Business Case for Early-Childhood Education

Once a company begins to provide child care, it's no doubt a big benefit for employees, but the report also says it helps with the bottom line by leading to more productivity.

"It decreases the absentee [rate] by 30 percent, and job turnover declined by as much as 60 percent," said Codella.

The report also includes a couple of case studies, which show companies and business leaders taking the lead on this issue.

It takes a look at Home Depot, which was able to better serve its workers by offering on-site child care to its employees at company headquarters in Atlanta and backup care to its employees all over the country.

It also cites the state of Minnesota, which developed a system to provide high-quality care with the assistance of CEOs around the state. The report praises the state for developing a private sector-led pilot program, which resulted in the development of a quality rating and improvement system to help care providers learn best practices and providing scholarships to help low-income families access high-quality child care programs. 

Now the foundation is taking its message on the road. It's scheduled five meetings around the country with local chambers of commerce to bring business leaders together to discuss the issue. The next meeting is set for November 3 in Austin, Texas.

Image by Getty


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