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Jul 25, 201604:33 PMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

How being 'family friendly' can help companies overcome worker shortages

(page 2 of 2)

Tyler, who also serves as a University of Wisconsin Regent, thinks Minnesota’s experience with early childhood education is “one of the key differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin” in terms of economic performance. While Wisconsin has relied mostly on private, non-profit, and charitable groups to boost early childhood education, Minnesota has invested public dollars alongside such efforts for 30 years.

The benefits of such programs cut across all income groups, experts agree, but they’re most pronounced in low-income areas where families may lack access to classes, home visits, developmental screening, child care, and reading programs that can give children under five a head start.

Those are the kinds of programs the Family Friendly Workforce underwrites in Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties.

“Long term, we need to make sure young people who are entering the workforce are prepared to be there starting in their earliest years,” said Lara Otsuka, who runs the program for United Way St. Croix. “Short term, if you’re an employer and can say you’re family friendly, and have the certification to prove it, it’s a great way to attract and retain employees … and increase productivity.”

So far, the St. Croix family friendly program is operating mainly off a federal “Race to the Top” grant, money from the Flowers Family Foundation, and support from individual businesses. As the number of certifications grow, it will likely rely on those revenues.

Demographics are not working to Wisconsin’s advantage these days. For the economy to grow, employers, communities, and government must find creative ways to educate, attract, and retain workers. Something as simple as certifying businesses as family friendly is one such example.

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Jul 29, 2016 09:57 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

First off this is a fascinating program thanks for alerting us to it. Secondly the City of Madison has been investing in early childhood education for over 40 years - is maybe the only city with an early childhood unit- and is one of the best places in the country for early childhood education with 50% of the slots high quality. This is part of the reason this county is gaining population and millennials when much of the rest of the state is losing them. Cost is a major issue due to high labor and occupancy costs (Downtown could definitely use a center and has less child care than when I started 25 years ago but no one can afford to start one) Almost 40% of the workforce with children here cannot afford child care or preschool- the cost of living skews higher than the eligibility scales for public subsidies.
The business community oddly does not seem to use the existing high quality early childhood programs here as a draw when promoting the region or doing recruitment. It is a major mistake but then people in Dane County tend to take a lot for granted that those of us who moved here take as special - George Hagenauer -4C

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Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.



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