On my recent travels around the US, talent and workforce development is clearly the No. 1 issue regardless of location. In urban, rural,and suburban locales, employers are facing big challenges in finding and retaining talented workers. There are many factors at work here, and many workforce development programs have been addressing core challenges related to skills and training. But, the causes are more complex than a skills mismatch. Workforce shortages are driven by other factors too–including housing availability/affordability and child care. If you can’t afford to buy a home or raise a child in a community, your prospects for a rewarding career there are pretty slim.
Forward thinking communities around the US are starting to proactively these issues. (Check out some useful background from CED and the Upjohn Institute). My home community of Arlington, VA is becoming a national leader on this front. It has just released and approved an excellent plan as part of an ongoing Child Care Initiative. The Arlington economy is booming, so housing costs and child care costs have been skyrocketing, creating great financial challenges for parents. In fact, the project’s research estimates that child care costs an average Arlington family around $42,000 per year. The new plan takes a holistic look at the issue, and includes dozens of recommendations. Big early steps include additional subsidies to defray child care costs, zoning revisions to encourage creation of new facilities, and new training programs to build a stronger local talent pool of child care professionals. This is an ambitious plan, but it’s got potential. If the talent wars continue, more communities around the US will need to take this type of holistic look at issues affecting local families and workers.