Part of our work here with the Montana Child Care Business Connect program is to help child care providers break free of the old ways of doing things, modernize, innovate, and run profitable businesses.
Recently, I’ve had two separate meetings that illustrate the need for this.
In one meeting with a provider in rural Montana, the discussion related to how a board of directors was advocating for lower wages than was proposed in their new wage scale. The argument was that working in childcare should be a calling and the calling requires sacrifice.
In the other meeting with a startup provider in one of Montana’s seven urban communities, I was told a story about a sign the new provider posted outside her location advertising that she was hiring teachers. The sign indicated her starting wage was nearly $20 per hour.
Ironically, this new provider was contacted by a more established provider who suggested her starting wages were too high. When asked about the status of her workforce, the established provider noted that she was understaffed. The new provider, meanwhile, had a flood of applicants and ultimately hired the best of the best, including a highly qualified teacher who would help to validate the quality of the new program.
If our industry is going to be viable, we must break free of the notion that child care providers should sacrifice a living wage to educate our communities’ youngest children.
Several years ago, a provider said to me: “Jason, if you can’t staff it, you can’t do it.” This statement rings true regarding these two examples mentioned above. If providers cannot staff their programs, they cannot provide early education services and care to families. If families don’t have a place for their children, they cannot work. If no one in a community is working, the community’s economy is impacted.
The only way the child care industry is viable is to ensure it has providers working in programs. The only way we compete for employees is to provide a competitive wage. In an era of hyperinflation, workers must make decisions to ensure they can afford food and housing. And that means they will leave employment in the child care industry to go work at a clothing retailer, a food purveyor, or even as a bank teller because those positions pay more. Plain and simple.
Kudos to the directors and owners of child care programs who recognize that their viability is directly tied to their ability to staff their programs. And that starts with paying competitive wages. And yes, that means closer to $20 per hour.
To research wage data paid to providers in Montana, check out the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Labor Market Information website.
For no-cost, one-on-one assistance to budget for increasing wages, contact Jason Nitschke at JasonN@ZerotoFive.org.
– Jason Nitschke, Senior Child Care Business Advisor