ALBANY — Organizers on Wednesday will hold a virtual job fair in hopes of putting a dent in the workforce shortage affecting child care providers.
Two dozen to three dozen organizations and day care centers will be online, taking applications, but they’ll also have employees on hand to share details of what it’s like to work in child care.
Brian Williams, executive director of the Capital Region Workforce Development Board, said this kind of pitch is important, as the hourly wages of child care workers are typically low but there are rewards beyond money.
Focus groups conducted with adults ages 18 to 25 who are not attending college show there is a potentially receptive audience for this message, he said. “Money is not the No. 1 thing that people are looking for — they want to make an impact.”
Child care also can be a good entry point for a career in early childhood education, Williams said.
To participate in the virtual hiring and resource event, job seekers must register online at http://bit.ly/JobSeeker1-19 on Tuesday.
From 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, they’ll find a digital floor plan with separate booths for 25 to 40 employers and resource organizations. Clicking on a booth will show job seekers the company’s profile, job openings and services, and give them a chance to chat live with representatives.
Wednesday’s virtual event is a joint effort of the Workforce Development Board with the Capital Region Career Centers in the city of Albany/Albany County, Rensselaer County and Schenectady County.
“What we tried to do with this event is put together one holding tank of the providers in this region,” Williams said.
He said he’s aware anecdotally that some child care organizations have a wait list up to a year long for infants. It’s not as long for older children, he said, because state-mandated staffing ratios aren’t as tight — one teacher can care for no more than four children ages 6 weeks to 18 months, but can watch over nine 5-year-olds, for example.
The worst impact he has heard of is a facility limited to 75% capacity.
The problems the child care industry is experiencing are a result of and a contributor to the larger picture of the pandemic.
Some workers left low-wage jobs such as child care for more-lucrative jobs or took a break from the workforce. Some higher-paid workers took their children out of child care when they started working from home or started working from home because they couldn’t find child care. Some people who want to rejoin the workforce can’t because they’ve got no one to watch their children. Some child care workers may be alienated by a vaccine mandate.
On top of these moving pieces, COVID symptoms or a positive test can abruptly take children and teachers alike out of the day care setting and into quarantine, leaving parents scrambling for an alternative.
“I think what came to light during the pandemic is how much people rely on affordable, dependable child care,” Williams said.