Education Attainment Division
Supporting Infants, Toddlers and Parents in Economic Recovery
The lack of quality, affordable early childhood programs is one of the most pressing issues for working parents today. Chambers can be effective change agents and advocates for early childhood education in communities across the country. Focusing on infants and toddlers is good for the economy, good for our youngest children and good for our workforce, both today and tomorrow.
The statistics surrounding the availability of quality early education programs are concerning. Only 7% of eligible children are served by Early Head Start, and the cost of infant care is more expensive than in-state public college tuition in 33 states. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the availability of quality childcare programs even more drastically. According to a Bipartisan Policy Center survey in early April, 61% of parents reported their child care provider closed due to COVID-19.
Quality early education is also instrumental in developing the next generation of the workforce. Critical development happens from ages 0-3 age group, which can be foundational for growth and development later in life. Research shows that investing in programs for infants and toddlers can help bridge equity gaps, promote economic mobility for working families and provide foundational resources to set infants and toddlers up for academic success.
Chambers of commerce are uniquely capable of providing business knowledge and supporting local initiatives to help local early childhood programs and working parents. The Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce recently committed to taking part in an early childhood task force in Arkansas. Steve Cox, senior vice president of economic development, shared, “Our Chamber is excited to be working with Cirricula Concepts to help increase access and overall quality of early childhood education for the Northwest Arkansas region. As we continue to grow and thrive as a region, it is vital to invest time and resources into providing affordable high-quality early childhood education for children and parents. These initiatives fall in line with our workforce and economic development mission work. We work with area organizations to train childcare providers and assist in opening new facilities to allow our existing workforce to stay active in their careers without worrying about access to quality childcare. Programs such as our Kindergarten to Job (K2J) and partnerships with area schools and childcare facilities are creating education pathways and setting up future generations for career success that can bring about generational change.”
Here are some other examples of how chambers are approaching early childhood supports:
- The Santa Rosa Metro Chamber worked with community partners to open a new local on-site childcare facility
- Traverse Connect is a member of the Great Start Collaborative, which brings together business, education and others to address early childhood education
- The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce supported federal legislation to fund childcare and has utilized resources from Groundwork Ohio in member communications around early childhood
ACCE’s roundtable call on this topic last year provided other examples of innovative programs in this area. You may also find ACCE’s brief Earliest Supports for Equitable Economic Recovery helpful. For more information on what is happening at the state policy level and research on building a state roadmap to support infants and toddlers, visit the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center. With increased support of early childhood education programs, chambers can support the workforce of today and the foundation for a better tomorrow.
Small Chamber Big Ideas
In northwest Iowa, there is a small town named Sioux Center with a population of 7,500. It boasts a small private university and a hospital, as well as several sectors of business, including genetics, agriculture, construction, and major employers like Pella Corporation and Smithfield. Like many chambers across the country, the Sioux Center Chamber heard complaints from member businesses about not being able to expand. Businesses couldn’t grow because there wasn’t anyone to hire; they needed new talent, and talent that stays. Businesses charged the Sioux Center Chamber, led by Barbara DenHerder, to help.
To address the issue of talent attraction, the chamber implemented the Homecoming Grant in 2017. This $6,000 grant pays off student loans for students who graduated from the local high school. The amount is paid over four years, and graduates must hold a job in Sioux Center. The grant is framed as a reverse scholarship that is given at the conclusion at the student’s education, instead of at the beginning. Twenty people have applied to date, and two people have been awarded the grant. The chamber is working to raise awareness about the program with the goal of continuing to encourage students to look for and get jobs in their hometown.
To address talent retention, the chamber started Leadership Sioux Center in 2015. Like many other leadership programs, 20 young professionals participate in the eight-month cohort program with a session once a month. This has created a talent pool of younger leaders who are the first to receive notifications for board openings, volunteer opportunities and local civic positions. Of the 100 people who have completed the program, only two have left Sioux Center, making it a very effective tool for talent retention.
To help expose students to the many career opportunities in Sioux Center, the chamber started Your Future@Work. The event begins with a keynote, followed by interactive breakout sessions and a business expo with 65 businesses. For the breakout sessions and the business expo, the chamber works with businesses to focus on the skills needed for working in that industry, rather than the benefits of working for that specific company. For example, a manufacturing company might do an activity with robotics to show students the types of skills they need to get a job in the sector. The event has grown and is now mandatory for the 500-600 high school sophomores in Sioux county. The chamber continues to work with the school district to maintain consistent post-event messaging.
With a staff of three, Barbara DenHerder has responded quickly to member needs. The strength of their chamber is largely due to the tremendous support of the businesses and their willingness to partner with the Chamber in many ways. With an entrepreneurial approach to closing the talent gap, the Sioux City Chamber continues to push for bigger and bolder solutions for its community.
Are you implementing some of the same programs as the Sioux Center Chamber? Do you have an innovative strategy or program that addresses significant issues? Please email Emily Counts (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share.
Helping Students Map Career Paths
This post was authored by Robin Willis, Associate Vice President, Talent Pipeline Strategies at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
As Chambers, we are all experiencing tremendous workforce strain in our communities. Just like you, we are hearing members express serious concern over finding and keeping skilled talent.
The Charleston metro region is the 75th largest metro in the county but ranks in the top 10 for job growth. We’ve evaluated the data and have projected there will be 35,000 new jobs in our region in the next 5 years.
Our Talent team works directly with school district leaders, guidance counselors and teachers. As we have communicated the local skills gaps data we noticed another cause for concern: students and parents were experiencing information overload. Instead of using the data to choose a high demand career path, they were lost in a sea of opportunity—hundreds of certificate or degree options in our market alone. Students needed simplified information that showed them there are multiple, but not infinite, pathways in high demand industries that can lead to a career with high potential for growth.
Enter a new publication called Mapping Your Path. It highlights several pathway options in six of our region’s high demand industries. Each pathway has been validated by 17 of the region’s leading employers. Students, or adults reentering or changing careers, can see starting and stopping points from Certifications to Associates Degrees through Masters Degrees.
School districts have embraced the information—giving print and electronic versions to students and parents as part of state-mandated planning meetings with school counselors. We envision producing an updated version with live online links, and ultimately the development of a mobile-enabled portal.
Childcare Matters: Improving workforce compensation is the key to quality and availability
This post was authored by Mary Manner, Great Start Coordinator, TraverseCONNECT
A new article about child care seems to pop up in the news almost every week, focusing either on the high cost of care or the shortage of quality care, or both. At their core, these issues are two sides of the same coin and the currency is workforce compensation.
In my home state of Michigan, as in many other states, the decline in the number of child care providers is alarming (find your state’s info here). As economic conditions here have improved in the last five years the demand for quality child care has increased yet the supply is on the decline, especially for infants and toddlers. On average, thirty providers close their businesses every month, and the reason most often given is to seek better pay and benefits.
If workforce compensation is fundamental to increasing the supply of quality child care, what can Chambers do to have an impact? The first step is to recognize child care providers as professionals who deserve to earn a livable wage for the important work they do educating and nurturing our youngest citizens, and the second step is to understand how families pay for care.
Fortunately there are some resources we can look to for guidance. The T.E.A.C.H. program, administered by the T.E.A.C.H. National Center, provides support for child care providers who want to access higher education. A related program, WAGE$, is a wage-supplementation program designed to increase quality through higher educational attainment of providers. Both programs depend on significant public and private investment at the state level to achieve the goals of raising quality and establishing compensation parity between early care professionals and kindergarten/elementary educators. Find out what your state is doing to raise workforce compensation and how you can support the effort.
How families pay for child care is the flip side of compensation. With child care nearly as expensive as college tuition, quality care is already out of reach for many low- and middle-income working families. Raising prices enough to elevate wages is not an option, but there are other ways to capitalize the system.
One solution is to infuse more cash into the system by increasing the utilization of the child care subsidy. Eligibility for the subsidy, paid out of a combination of federal Child Care Development Funds (CCDF) and state funds, varies widely by state. The national goal is make subsidies available to families earning up to 85% of the state median income (find your state’s data here), however many states still have a long way to go to meet that goal.
Recently I asked several center directors to calculate the per-child cost of their programs. The results were disheartening. Providers are charging about forty percent of the actual cost of providing high quality care and making up the difference with summer camps for older children, corporate underwriting, and/or fundraising. Given this business model, it’s hard to see how this path could toward increasing workforce compensation and program sustainability without additional inputs.
Shared services is one promising approach to improving child care business practices and cutting administrative costs, thus freeing up time and money to improve program quality and compensation. The state of Texas has a put together an excellent review of how shared services works for child care. Chambers of commerce may be uniquely able to support local shared services initiatives and provide business expertise.
In my conversations with local child care providers, the one question that keeps coming up is why the Chamber doesn’t do more for them, yet few are chamber members. Maybe it’s the cost, or believing that membership is only for big businesses, or simply being too busy, as owner/operators, to participate. Whatever the reason, perhaps it’s time that we do more to reach out with support and encouragement. It will benefit all of us.
For more information feel free to contact Mary Manner
Changing the Job Search Process in Huntersville
This post was authored by Jill Swain, Executive Director, Huntersville (N.C.) Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
Huntersville, NC has been growing for nearly 30 years. Located north of Charlotte and at the crossroads of several active highways, Huntersville has positioned itself to be a hub for large business and corporate headquarters. Despite the success of bringing in a strong contingent of larger companies, Huntersville has seen downsizings and restructurings, and citizens sometimes look for employment elsewhere. We have underemployed experienced workers and executive level talent, but our corporate HR departments will spend thousands of dollars on job postings and relocation packages, even though the talent is right here.
With citizens coming to the Huntersville Chamber asking for networking assistance to find local job positions, it became clear that the traditional methods of job searches were not working for our local talent. As a chamber that works diligently to make direct and personal connections, we knew we had to change the job search scenario.
Working with Job Hubbub, our chamber established a local job search board, HuntersvilleWorks.com. We offer free job postings to our members and encourage residents to share the site with family and friends through social media. The site connects directly with Google Jobs, so anyone searching "jobs near me" locally is directed to our local Chamber member open positions.
A more personalized, local approach to job searches also allows our chamber to directly connect people to potential jobs. Although the site is easy to use and self-sustaining, we can monitor incoming jobs and applications and, when possible, make direct connections. The previous mentality of networking and trying to find someone in each company to get a foot in the door is now morphing toward a more direct effort to hire local and stay local in job searches.
We wanted to ensure that the system meets the needs of applicants and employers. Job-seekers receive an update if their application was read, so they didn’t have to wonder if their application went to some national headquarters “black hole”. We have also begun locating job kiosks at local establishments to increase business foot traffic and to make sure that people have access to search jobs throughout town. HR professionals can rate applicants and keep a file for any applications that come in for job positions. With the connection to Google Jobs, clicks to jobs listings on our site also improve SEO for member companies that post jobs on our board.
We are seeing a consistent increase in clicks and usage, currently at over 260,000 clicks a month and rising. We are about to launch a partnership with a local media organization to link our open jobs to their website and publications. Because HuntersvilleWorks has become a connector for our residents, we have developed the application to be utilized for other chambers of commerce. For example, Union County, N.C. is now utilizing the application as UnionCountyWorks.com and has launched with great acclaim.
We created the Job Hubbub platform to be the new way communities link job applicants to open, local positions. In a world of unlimited budgets, we would have launched an advertising campaign to encourage people to shorten their commutes and work where they live. Nevertheless, we are seeing a positive response to this new way of connecting, and offering this amenity has helped us attract new members. We would love to share the same application with any interested chamber. With potential for banner ads and paid chat features, it can quickly pay for itself!
Encouraging Entrepreneurship in High School
This post was authored by Danielle Britton, Talent and Education Director, Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce.
The Greater Binghamton Scholastic Challenge is an annual event in Binghamton, NY that brings together innovative minds of high school students and local businesses in a unique way. Founded by Modern Marketing & Commerce, GBSC gives high school students the opportunity to develop ideas and businesses that directly impact our community, all while competing for a chance to win scholarship money and internships.
The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and MMC partner to provide students with business connections and an inspiring final event. On Tuesday, May 21, MMC held its 10th annual Greater Binghamton Scholastic Challenge at Binghamton University in partnership with GBEOP. There were over 50 teams from 8 different local high schools who worked all year on the perfect business plan to showcase at the event.
Students worked with their teachers and business mentors to develop business ideas, create award-winning business plans and hone presentation skills. While given the choice to work individually or in teams, students were strongly encouraged to work together to learn communication and people skills. As part of the competition, the student or group was required to provide a professional tradeshow booth and business idea pitch. Local entrepreneurs and business leaders could then mentor or judge their business plans, which provided great connections and networking opportunities for the students.
To see a video from the 2019 Scholastic Challenge, click here.
The New Strategy for Afterschool
Over the past few years, chambers have increasingly focused on using afterschool as a strategy for career awareness and to decrease the skills gap in their communities. Afterschool has traditionally been used as time to do homework before parents get out of work, but it can be so much more. Afterschool can be the time when students are exposed to career opportunities, learn in demand skills and apply what they learned in the classroom to real life scenarios.
Chambers that have seen the potential of afterschool as a talent strategy are capitalizing on their investment in the workforce of tomorrow. Greater Spokane Inc, is taking advantage of afterschool opportunities to raise awareness of STEM possibilities and continue education past the bell. Check out the webinar featuring the Greater Spokane Inc’s work here. The Casper Area Chamber offers afterschool programming to improve students’ soft skills. Whether your chamber provides direct programming or supports other existing programs, there are many helpful resources at your disposal.
If you are considering your next steps for developing deeper partnership in the afterschool space, you may find ACCE’s afterschool partnership model helpful. This model illustrates how chambers can evolve a new partnership into a mature, effective collaboration. You can find other helpful resources on the Afterschool STEM Chamberpedia page.
Linda Barton of the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance, Erin Helms of the Casper Area Chamber, and Elissa Ruckle of Elevate Wyoming presented a webinar titled How Afterschool Can Shape Your STEM Workforce. This webinar also included perspectives from aftershool experts Ron Ottinger from the STEM Next Opportunity Fund and Kari Pardoe of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Do you use afterschool as part of your career awareness and closing the skill gap strategy? We would love to hear from you. Email Amy Shields (email@example.com) to let us know what you are doing.
Investing in Work-Based Learning and Our Future
This post was authored by Amanda Beights, Vice President of the Leadership Collier Foundation.
The mission of the Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF), of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, is to build a broad-based network of engaged community leaders. The foundation accomplishes this through its well-recognized leadership programs and talent development initiatives.
Cultivating Student Leaders & Developing Our Workforce
For more than 15 years, Youth Leadership Collier (YLC), the foundation’s program designed for students between their junior and senior years of high school, has empowered over 500 local graduates to become effective community leaders. The week-long program teaches leadership skills and personal development through hands-on experiences and eye-opening industry tours.
We also often hear from the local business community about their frustrations with talent development in our area which led our leadership to define workforce development needs to be a top policy priority for the Naples Chamber. Knowing the impact Youth Leadership Collier has made and the Chamber’s investment in connecting education and business, we realized the potential to develop similar work-based learning experiences for all local students.
Connecting Students to Professional Opportunities
Our focus is connecting students and businesses to internship opportunities, mentoring prospects, shadow days, industry fairs, networking events, work-site tours and in-school career programming. Over the past two years – through partnerships with our public and private high-schools, higher-education institutions and nonprofit organizations – we’ve paired thousands of students with successful work-based learning opportunities.
For example, one of the main draws of Youth Leadership Collier is the opportunity to get behind-the-scenes tours of local businesses. Expanding on that idea and the needs of our community, our team has set up site-tours with local manufacturing facilities to introduce up-and-coming talent to potential new career pathways.
We also host Mentor Mingle opportunities designed specifically for high school and college students to network with local business professionals. This gives students the opportunity to practice their soft-skills and develop relationships with community members out of their immediate circle.
The benefits for students, businesses and the community are extensive. Students enjoy applying what they learn in the classroom to the real-world and establish professional contacts for future employment. Employers gain access to a pool of skilled future employees and find opportunities to pursue new projects with student assistance. The community benefits because we have created an environment of collaboration, cooperation and respect for all involved. Work-based learning is a win for everyone.
Over the last year, our director of work-based learning has served as a resource to students and employers. Taking the time to nurture future talent from our educational institutions and informing employers on the value of hiring an intern.
More Resources to Come
Southwest Florida can expect a lot from the Greater Naples Chamber’s Leadership Collier Foundation in the future.
Our team is going beyond the traditional methods and encouraging students to think differently about careers in Collier County and pathways to prosperity. We are here to support all by serving as a leader and partner in the connection to business, education and talent development in Collier County. Our goal is to create economic opportunity for all and motivate our future leaders to better our community and their lives for years to come.
Creating a Workforce Readiness Institute for Educators
This post was authored by Stephanie Newland, Vice President, Workforce Readiness, Shoals Chamber of Commerce.
Students ask, “Why do I need to know this?” and “When will I ever use this again?” Do educators really know? They may know about doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers and teachers, but what about machinists, CNC operators, multi-craft maintenance and so many other technical professionals who have high-demand, high-skill, high-paying careers? Would they know to advise their students to consider these jobs? Most likely not. Hence, our nation’s current skills gap!
We never discourage anyone from getting as much education as they desire or need to reach their goals, but we have found that many students do not know enough about technical careers to choose them as a goal. We want students to marry their interests and passions with available career opportunities and get as much training and skills in those areas as they can. We encourage all students (directly and through their teachers) to gain a marketable skill and preferably to earn certification(s) in high school.
We believe students should learn how to do something that employers will value and which will benefit their ultimate educational and career goals. If they are not financially able or choose not to go directly to college, they can still make a living. Then, maybe their employer will pay for their continued education. If not, they can still save for school, or work through school and have less, or possibly no, student loan debt. It is simply a win-win to have a marketable skill no matter what you plan to do after high school.
Since 2008, the Shoals Chamber of Commerce has hosted a summer program now called Workforce Readiness Institute for Educators. During this program, 25 – 30 regional educators (classroom teachers, counselor, administrators, youth workers, etc.) spend seven days touring local industry and the technical programs at Northwest-Shoals Community College, learning how the academics they teach in the classroom tie into jobs in business and industry.
Our target audience is middle and high school math and science teachers and counselors, but if we have space, we accept any interested educators. At the conclusion, they write career-related lesson plans, so students better understand the “why” and “when” of what they are learning. We then provide links to the lesson plans from our chamber’s Education/Workforce webpage and invite other educators to use them, which increases the ROI for the program. Those not on contract during the summer are paid a modest stipend ($75/day), which is funded by grants, sponsorships and donations. Participants are also eligible to receive professional development credit, both CEUs / Contact Hours for classroom teachers and a state-approved PLU for administrators.
Businesses who participate love sharing their workforce needs and challenges with the educators. Educators are amazed at all the businesses they never realized were even in the area, on “that street” they had never ventured down, as well as the great career opportunities for so many of their students who may not be interested in a 4-year degree … at least not yet. They learn how their math, science and English concepts are used daily within these businesses. They also see how important soft skills are, such as taking responsibility and pride in your work, being on time, critical thinking, teamwork and respecting others. They usually rank the WRI among the best, most relevant professional development opportunities they have ever encountered.
We are encouraging those at the state level to implement this type of program at colleges of education so student teachers will have a better understanding of the end result of the academics and skills they teach before they ever enter the classroom. An educator's goal should not only be to get students from Math A to Math B, but to make sure their students have a working understanding of how Math A can be used someday in various careers and why it is important that they can use it in the real world.
Did you know that making upgrades to your community’s environment can improve the health outcomes of your community? Your chamber or community may have added sidewalks, created pedestrian-only downtown spaces or host a local farmer’s market every weekend. Placemaking has traditionally been seen as an economic development strategy, but it also can be a community health strategy. No matter how your chamber implements placemaking, one thing is for sure; it makes your community the place to be.
The Billings Chamber (Mont.) is intentional about using placemaking as an avenue for better health outcomes in the community. Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Reiser CCE, IOM says, “Healthy placemaking means making the healthy choice the easy choice by being intentional about considering health when developing policies and systems.”
The Billings Chamber put this into action through their Trails Initiative. The chamber led the task force that increased and connected trails in the community. Billings went from having 15 miles of trails to 40 miles. Jennifer shares, “By including opportunities for physical activity and movement, we can also increase opportunities for social connectedness, thus affecting both the physical and mental health of our employees. We are encouraging our employers to use healthy placemaking as a tool for employee engagement and workforce development.”
If you are interested in learning more about healthy placemaking, the Inclusive Healthy Placemaking Report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a helpful place to start. Below is a summary table from the Inclusive Healthy Placemaking Report on how to incorporate healthy placemaking in your community.
Public SpaceNeighborhood City Regional/National
Do you have healthy placemaking stories to share? We would love to hear from you. Email Emily Counts (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know what you are doing.