April 24, the Metro Chamber convened a panel discussion on Employer Supported Child Care. Topics ranged from the benefits of operating employer supported child care, calculating return on investment, concerns and challenges in implementation and surprise benefits.
“Patagonia sees a lot of benefit,” said Sheryl Sushan, Director of Global Family Services for Patagonia. “We’ve been doing it for 35 years. It’s integrated in the work-life fabric of our company culture and has tremendous cultural benefits in addition to the calculable ROI.”
Operating 700 centers for over 1,000 clients in the U.S., Bright Horizon’s Director of Client Services, Carol Sequeira-Miller, highlighted how offering child care options functions as a recruitment and retention tool. “We hear it day in, day out from employees that they will not leave their company because of this benefit.”
Renee Whitlock-Hemsouvanh, Chair-Elect of Child Care Planning Council, expanded on that idea, talking about how offering child care benefits acts as a two-generation strategy. “Especially for employees that come from other countries, it connects them with a support system, with other employees that have had similar experiences, and supports the emotional part of their children integrating into our community.”
Local employers like Recology Sonoma Marin, Keysight Technologies, Amy’s Kitchen, Cannacraft, River Rock Casino, and Fetzer Vineyards were particularly keen on the question of ROI during the Q&A session. “When we talk about ROI and the 70% figure,” said Patagonia’s Sushan, “we’ve decided that our level of services – like bilingual teachers, extra activities, parent education – are imperative to what we want to provide. And we’re ok with the direct 70% rather than reducing services to meet a 100% break even return.”
Sonoma County faces a dramatic shortage of available child care options with an estimated 2,500 children on waitlists. “Companies feel like – and truly become – a community partner when they can add child care slots to alleviate waitlists overall,” said Sequeira-Miller.
For business, high-quality child care is a smart investment. It supports the workforce of today (parents), while helping lay the strong foundation necessary for success in the future workforce (children). “This is one of the areas that really makes me proud,” said Peter Rumble, Metro Chamber CEO. “We see this work as one of the things that can make our community better and make our businesses thrive.”
To learn more about how Employer Supported Child Care can work for your organization, contact Ananda Sweet, VP of Public Policy & Workforce Development at 707-636-3662.
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