A shortage of childcare in Minot is closely related to a workforce shortage in the community, according to a city commission discussion Thursday.
The Minot Child Welfare Committee looked at common concerns that must be overcome in crafting solutions to the capacity problem at Minot and at Minot Air Force Base. Difficulty finding childcare staff – an issue raised at a previous committee meeting – was once again highlighted as a major factor holding back expansion of services.
“I will probably expand. But I can’t take on more kids until I get more staff,” she said. said committee member Becca Oswell, owner of the childcare centre. She said she had 11 job interviews in one day and only one candidate turned up. She said she could hire five workers at once, if she could find them.
Childcare workers’ wages were low, making it difficult to compete with the large number of other job opportunities available in the community. Oswell said giving employees free childcare for their children was a key motivator for her center because childcare cost savings can help offset lower wages.
Amy Jenkins, who works locally with the state’s childcare license, mentioned that a childcare center is looking to open in Minot with the help of a grant, but finding an affordable building before the grant offer ends June 1 is the catch.
“We can throw bricks and mortar all day long,” Mayor Tom Ross said. “The biggest problem is finding the workers, and in the end, what does it take to find those workers to help the workers in these day care centers? What pay do we need?”
City Manager Harold Stewart, a committee member, agreed.
“The brick and mortar is probably the easiest challenge here to solve them all. But without addressing wage issues, we will not find the workforce,” he said. He said.
Another workforce issue is the length of time the state takes to complete necessary background checks for potential childcare employees, an issue being considered by the North Dakota legislature.
The lack of a streamlined background check process results in a wait of three to four weeks, as opposed to the three days in Minnesota or the five days in South Dakota, said panel member Kelly Rosselly Sullivan, a workforce development specialist at Minot Area Chamber EDC.
By the end of the two or three weeks, Oswell said, a potential employee had moved on to another job opportunity. She added that checking out-of-state records can extend the wait to two months, and although a candidate can begin work during that time, he must be supervised.
The panel also discussed potential recruitment and retention using childcare training through high school placement programs and business training that could make starting a daycare and licensing compliance easier for providers.
The committee is scheduled to meet again May 2 at 1:30 p.m. in the new Minot City Hall.