Teaching qualifications

Massachusetts preschools and daycares face ‘frustrating’ staff shortages

Although nursery nurses and experts have warned of a staff shortage for years, the crisis is now being felt harder than ever as the school year accelerates.

“Before COVID, there was a waiting list for children and all classrooms were operational,” said Jennifer Curtis, executive director of South Shore Stars, a non-profit organization that runs programs for the little one. childhood and youth.

Now, she said, “two of our early years programs… have classrooms that sit empty because we still have staffing needs.

According to a to study released earlier this year by the Boston Opportunity Council, Boston has seen an 11% drop in the number of available spaces for children since the end of 2017 and has permanently lost 13% of its licensed child care programs which were open before the pandemic.

A to study of the Center for American Progress estimated that only 28% of infants and toddlers statewide could be served by licensed child care providers before the pandemic.

Curtis said staff turned around because they had to take care of their own family, worried about contracting COVID-19 or reconciled if they wanted to be in the workforce or if wanted to be at home. As a non-profit organization, it is not able to pay its employees as much as private or public centers can.

“You are teaching your toddlers in a critical developmental phase that is really going to make them successful for the rest of their educational careers,” she said. “It’s very frustrating when the salaries aren’t where they should be so that you can attract and retain staff. “

According to Alicia Modestino, associate professor at Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Department of Economics, researchers have known about the paradox of “expensive child care and low worker wages” for some time.

“Right now we’re going through this ‘big resignation’ where people are really rethinking what they’re doing with their lives. They are exhausted, they need to recharge their batteries, ”she said of the preschool staff.

This shortage of childcare services is already having a ripple effect on the labor market, especially for women. According to a recent to study conducted by Modestino and other researchers at Northeastern University, 26% of working women had to quit their jobs during the pandemic due to lack of child care. Low-income families are particularly affected when they cannot afford a private babysitter.

Andrea Wagner, technical director of Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, said she was struggling to fill the company’s open slots, in part because the daycare inside the manufacturing plant where many employees send their discount children have been understaffed throughout the pandemic.

Although Wagner is working closely with staff, who cannot work remotely, to reorganize shifts to allow for childcare, “we have a lot of jobs that we need to fill,” he said. she declared. “We’ve seen employees leave because they couldn’t handle child care, and it’s a tragedy.

Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care decided to ease the pressure by temporarily loosening some professional qualifications for childcare roles.

In the long run, workplace policies and changes, such as childcare subsidies, remote working flexibility, and in-house workplace childcare, will all help bridge the gap. the childcare gap and keeping women in the workforce after millions are gone, according to experts.

But to really make a change, researchers said child care needs to be seen as infrastructure, said Jamie Ladge, associate professor at Northeastern Business School. Much like the road or bridge closures, she said, “How do you get to work if you don’t have daycare? “

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