High turnover rate and staff shortage For a long time A major scourge of early childhood education, but for many childcare providers, the struggle has been greatly intensified during the pandemic.

This was true at the peak of the outbreak last year, and it is still true today.

“We couldn’t find a teacher,” said Aari Wade, director of the Child Development Center at Baxter Community Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It’s that simple.”

Wade’s project has not returned to full capacity since March 2020, when she was closed for four months. Since reopening in June last year, she has been working hard to rebuild her workforce. But no one applied. Without teachers to fill the classroom, Wade would not be able to bring out the many children she was allowed to accommodate. She has about 18 nurseries.

The problem is no longer a virus. This is staffing.

Childcare providers across the country, regardless of their state or environment, are facing pressure from understaffing. The National Association for Early Childhood Education (NAEYC) is a non-profit organization representing all early childhood educators. It surveyed 7,500 providers from mid-June to early July. Established Compared with before March 2020, more than half of the respondents now have greater difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees.

Among providers working in a center-based environment, the survey found that 80% are currently facing a staff shortage, which NAEYC defines as having at least one vacancy and being vacant for one month or more.

The reality in many plans is far more terrifying. For example, Wade employed about 15 teachers before the pandemic, and now she is hovering at 9 years old. Three of these nine people are new employees and two of them have no experience in early care and educational environments.

In Delaware, Toni Dickerson has 53 employees, while she hired 75 before the pandemic.

Both suppliers are hiring to fill these vacancies, but the supply-the applicant pool-does not exist.

‘A mess’

Dickerson is the administrator of Sussex Preschools, which operates four sites in rural Delaware that are considered “childcare deserts.” In her community, every vacant teacher position is equivalent to a few parents who lack any high-quality childcare options. In a town operated by Sussex Preschools, it is the only child care program available. On the other hand, it is the only company that has obtained permission to take care of babies.

So what is the family doing? Dixon said it was a mess. Due to the desperate need for childcare services, many of them send their children to unauthorized facilities-she uses cheerleading stadiums and martial arts centers as examples. Nothing may go wrong. But without a license, these places do not need to conduct criminal background checks on employees or assess their ability to provide childcare services. One person can supervise 10 to 15 children, which is much higher than the proportion required by the state for licensing projects.

“There is no way to control allergy exposure or the general safety of the child,” Dixon explained. “And letting children jump around is not conducive to their brain development-if they don’t know where they are going next or where they will eventually go, it can lead to attachment problems.”

Dixon said that in these unlicensed facilities, there may be 30 or 40 young children and several untrained adults present. “But because there is no choice, this is what the parents did.”

The largest childcare center in Sussex Preschools was approved to care for 132 children. Now, its service volume is about 85.

High turnover, low demand

This is not unique to Dickerson. Among the providers surveyed by NAEYC who said they face staffing challenges, 50% said they serve fewer children as a result, one-third said they have longer waiting lists or unable to reopen all classrooms, about a quarter One of the people said to reduce business hours.

“It’s all due to staffing issues,” Dickerson pointed out, but added that before the pandemic, her largest factory could not operate at full capacity because the flow of people has long plagued the field.

In the past year, the challenges faced by suppliers have been magnified-partly because of the improved selection of potential applicants. Future early childhood educators see how hard they work in this position, how much money they will get for it, and often decide that even if they like working with children, they will live better elsewhere.

Many of them turned to local K-12 schools. School districts near Sussex Preschools provide substitute teachers and paraprofessionals with more favorable discounts than Dickerson’s preschool programs, and there are far fewer obstacles to jump over.

She said that alternatives can earn between US$150 and US$200 a day in the region. Most providers can’t compete with them—the teachers in Sussex kindergartens usually earn between $80 and $90 in pre-tax income a day.

Then came the retail and service work, which pulled the teachers away. Dickerson said that Chick-fil-A pays $15-16 per hour in Sussex County, while many of her teachers only make $10. “Although I like Chick-fil-A very much, it is much easier to make chicken nuggets and be polite than working in a nursery.”

In the summer, suppliers must also deal with seasonal work. In Delaware, it’s the beach. Dixon explained that it is only a 30 or 40 minute drive from the coast. “Our educators can work as waiters during the summer vacation and earn an annual salary. I have a friend who is doing this, and she is also doing it.”

This is also consistent with NAEYC’s findings. 71% of providers said that their local public school is the most common alternative to early childhood education jobs, with retail and warehouse jobs ranking second and third.

Schnell Price-Lambert, owner of the JO Learning Academy in Milwaukee, had the same problem. She will celebrate her 25th anniversary in 2022 and said that she has been thriving before the pandemic.

“I like to say that I realized my dream on March 14. By March 16, I was living in a nightmare,” Price-Lambert said.

She had more than 50 employees at the time. But when she reopened her project last summer, only about seven people returned. She almost had to start over, hiring all new people to fill the vacancies.

‘This is the feeling of despair’

Baxter Community Center applications continue to flood in, although this is not enough. Wade has begun offering a $150 recruitment bonus and a $500 bonus to any existing employee who successfully recommends someone a vacancy. But even this did not seem to waver.

When JO’s School of Learning receives a rare application, Price-Lambert must pay for it through the recruitment service she uses to view the applicant’s resume. It adds up quickly.

“You advertise and pull resumes, but this person doesn’t have the experience you need. Or they are qualified, but they didn’t show up in the interview,” Price-Lambert explained.

Another common situation: She finds someone who has no experience in dealing with children (“We have no choice,” she said), hires them to do the job, pays for their fingerprints and background checks, but she does not show up. first day.

The NAEYC survey found that — and support for childcare providers — the biggest obstacle is wages. In the survey, 78% of respondents believe that low wages are their biggest challenge in recruiting more employees. Many suppliers pointed out that, like most other jobs, pandemic unemployment is more for applicants than the positions they offer. it is good. Many suppliers said that they hope to provide more employees-and are working hard in this direction-but under the current system, this is not financially feasible. The profit margins of most companies are so low that redistributing more income to employees will force them to suspend business, but charging higher fees for each child will discourage parents.

Low wages are not only an obstacle to finding and hiring new teachers. This is the main reason why many people in the field—even those with degrees, experience, and expertise—leave it. In the NAEYC survey, 81% of respondents believe that low wages are the main motivation for educators to leave the field, followed by 54% of respondents who indicated the lack of benefits such as medical insurance and vacations. One-third of providers cited exhaustion and burnout as their root causes.

Wade said she paid the chief teacher between $14 and $17 per hour, and the starting price for assistant teachers and floats was about $12 per hour. She admits that this is not a living wage in Grand Rapids. “You can’t use it to pay rent and buy groceries,” she said.

Fleeing now feels particularly serious. It seems that there is a “we are hiring” sign in the window of every store. Those who have benefited from the recruitment boom, including many early childhood educators, are seizing their opportunities.

“You can ask someone to leave at 5 pm, and they can find a new job at 5:01. This is how desperate it feels now,” Price-Lambert said.

Dickerson is seeing this trend in real time. She recently asked an employee to work at the car fast food restaurant Sonic.

“They left, and their words were,’I have no responsibility in another job. I just stood there and made a milkshake, and then I went home,'” Dixon recalled.

She said that Dixon was not angry or resentful. She understands that people must do the best for themselves.

“The worst thing you have to do is deal with an angry customer whose milkshake is wrong?” she asked. “This is amazing logic.”

Then added: “Some days sound great, just like I love my job. It sounds great.”

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