Worksystems, in partnership with Workforce SW Washington and Clackamas Workforce Partnership has been awarded a $2.3M grant from the US Department of Labor to support the child care needs of job seekers while they participate in training to prepare for a new career. Funding will be prioritized for women and people of color who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic as these populations are overrepresented in the hardest hit industries including hospitality, food service and retail.
Child care in the Portland Metro area averages $1,500/month - unaffordable for households in poverty
Lack of affordable child care is a primary barrier preventing low-income job seekers from participating in the training necessary to build skills and earn credentials to prepare for a new career. Once hired, parents continue to need childcare support until they have attained career advancement sufficient to support a living wage.
This initiative will build on emerging public investments towards universal preschool such as the State of Oregon's Preschool Promise and Multnomah County's Preschool for All - both programs providing free preschool/child care for families in poverty with children ages 3-4. Even with these public investments, resource gaps remain and this funding will cover the costs of child care when available public resources have been exhausted. It will also fund Workforce Child Care Navigators, dedicated staff working to secure child care for job seekers while they engage in training, search for employment, and throughout the initial period at their new job.
Funding will support child care for 150 job seekers in the six-county region
As the pandemic ends and the economy re-opens, demand for preschool teachers in our region is rapidly increasing. In response, the grant will also fund career pathways for preschool teachers and preschool teacher assistants to support the growing demand for these professionals that is being driven by slots funded through Preschool for All and Preschool Promise. These slots and public funding come with the requirement of paying a living wage, including benchmarking preschool teachers to the median salary for kindergarten teachers (currently over $74,000) and 75% of that for preschool teacher assistants (currently over $55,000 per year).
We hope that this initiative is the foundation for a scaled workforce-child care program that supports job seekers in poverty with young children and opens pathways into family-wage careers that may have been previously unachievable.