3 Ways States Can Expand and Sustain the Infrastructure Workforce by Meeting Child Care Needs
3 Ways States Can Expand and Sustain the Infrastructure Workforce by Meeting Child Care Needs
To improve recruitment, training, and retention in the construction industry, states should utilize infrastructure funds to address workers’ child care needs.
In this article
Delivering on infrastructure commitments to communities requires a stable, well-trained, adequately sized, and diverse workforce.
The construction industry has unique features—such as early hours and changing job sites—that make traditional child care for working parents difficult.
Federal funding offers opportunities for states to recruit and retain more workers by supporting them in finding and paying for child care.
Introduction and summary
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and CHIPS and Science Act are poised to employ millions of American workers in high-quality jobs. This suite of transformative economic legislation can change the face of the American workforce by dramatically expanding the presence of women and people of color in industries—such as construction, clean energy, and manufacturing—where they are substantially underrepresented. However, industries benefiting from these historic investments face hiring challenges, with many expressing concern about whether there will be enough workers to deliver on these economic promises.1 At the same time, some states have explored an underutilized recruitment and retention tool: child care for workers in training.
To expand their pool of available workers, industries such as construction must look beyond their historical labor pools and bring in new, more diverse pipelines of talent—especially women. However, many barriers exist to women’s participation in this crucial work, including access to adequate child care. Even with decades of social and economic advancement, women are still more likely than men to be the primary caregivers. In households with small children, lack of access to child care impedes women’s labor force participation.2 Not only does the United States woefully underfund the child care system, but construction jobs have unique requirements such as early hours or changing job sites that do not fit traditional child care settings.3 Moreover, many families struggle to find and afford child care, forcing parents earning lower wages out of the labor market.
To expand their pool of available workers, industries such as construction must look beyond their historical labor pools and bring in new, more diverse pipelines of talent—especially women.
To increase recruitment and retention of workers and meet industrial goals across infrastructure projects, states should utilize eligible IIJA funds—most notably a portion of core highway funding—to fund child care for workers in training programs, such as pre-apprenticeships or registered apprenticeships. This report outlines three strategies to meet child care needs for workers in training by using eligible IIJA funds:
- Fund navigators to support infrastructure workers in finding and securing child care.
- Provide child care payment assistance for workers.
- Contract with providers to secure designated child care slots that are aligned to infrastructure industry needs.
In doing so, states will grow and diversify their training pipelines to create stronger workforces and deliver on their infrastructure commitments to constituents.
Child care enables employment but is inadequately funded
Across all industries, access to child care enables parents of young children to work. Unstable child care arrangements can lead to workers’ reduced productivity, as they worry and are distracted at work or arrive late, leave early, or miss work altogether. Indeed, research by the Council for a Strong America indicates that 64 percent of workers with infants or toddlers have been late to work or left early and that 58 percent have missed a full day of work in the past three months. As a result, 30 percent of workers with infants or toddlers have been reprimanded and 23 percent have been fired or let go during that time.4 Lack of quality affordable care can keep parents out of the paid workforce altogether.
As previously noted, women—who are significantly more likely to be the primary providers of child care in the home—are particularly burdened by the lack of affordable and accessible child care, which hinders their full participation in the labor force. A recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 27 percent of all people who are not working say they are not looking for work because they need to provide care at home, with the proportion jumping to 36 percent among just women.5 A comprehensive literature review of academic studies on the relationship between child care and parental labor force participation found consistent evidence that reducing the price or increasing the availability of child care increases maternal employment.6 In addition, a recent working paper using a randomized controlled trial for access to child care supports found a 160 percent increase in employment for women with lower socioeconomic status.7 Child care access empowers parents to maintain stable employment and income, which then helps to sustain their family.
Child care access empowers parents to maintain stable employment and income, which then helps to sustain their family.
Finally, child care has critical long-term, intergenerational impacts on children and parents. While it is clear that parents need income to support their families, when child care is not available or affordable, the price of going to work can be greater than the wages earned. It is a dynamic that poses a difficult choice, as many families are unable to survive without income but, at the same time, are unable to find or afford the child care they need to remain employed. In addition, quality child care provides an essential developmental foundation for children, spurring greater stability and success through adolescence and into adulthood, affecting health, educational attainment, wages, and more. Likewise, parents with reliable child care can participate more fully in the workforce and develop stable career paths that include greater pathways for advancement.
Despite the documented benefits, child care is dramatically underfunded. Prior to the pandemic, 51 percent of people in the United States lived in a child care desert—a neighborhood with insufficient child care spots to serve the number of children.8 Adding to America’s child care challenge is that only about 11 percent of children under age 6 eligible for child care assistance receive a subsidy,9 leaving almost 90 percent of children who qualify for support to find a child care arrangement without assistance.
In addition, the child care workforce has yet to recover to its February 2020 employment levels. The sector remains in a precarious position as the emergency funds that supported providers, educators, and families are winding down. Moreover, early childhood educators receive low wages and few benefits for their critical work—yet another reason the child care sector struggles to attract workers.10 Increasing child care capacity is a critical economic goal because of the role access to care plays in enabling parents to work.
Investments in other sectors of the workforce will rely on the country’s ability to expand and sustain the child care workforce through better compensation and job quality, adding more child care options to meet the needs of all families.
Learn more about child care deserts
America’s Child Care Deserts in 2018
Infrastructure-related industries need workers, and those workers need child care
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and CHIPS and Science Act depend on industries such as construction, manufacturing, and transportation to make their promises of infrastructure and industrial growth a reality. While these industries were all facing hiring challenges before the passage of these pieces of legislation, the infusion of new federal funding and tax incentives further increases demand for workers. To meet that demand, communities must take steps to build a sufficient supply of workers for these industries.
One crucial contributing factor to these hiring challenges is the reality that these infrastructure industries overwhelmingly employ men. For example, while experts estimate that the IIJA alone will create 800,000 American jobs over 10 years, women are projected to account for only 29 percent of these jobs.11 Moreover, women comprise a much smaller share of workers in the hands-on occupations critical to infrastructure work; in 2022, for instance, women made up 4.2 percent of construction and extraction occupations.12 This lack of women’s representation is an example of occupational segregation—when one group is over or underrepresented in a profession, reflecting societal bias regarding their role in society and the labor market as well as policy choices.13 Occupational segregation, and the higher pay available in predominantly male occupations, accounts for approximately 40 percent of the gender wage gap.14
Occupational segregation, and the higher pay available in predominantly male occupations, accounts for approximately 40 percent of the gender wage gap.
Today, various factors contribute to the low number of women working in construction. These may include young girls lacking exposure to the building and skilled trades and, as a consequence, not seeing those jobs as viable career options; social pressures that steer women toward more traditionally female-dominated careers, such as nursing and teaching; and the lack of access to pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship programs that are pathways into construction. In addition, tradeswomen currently working in construction and skilled trades report challenges with working conditions. For example, a 2021 survey of tradeswomen conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research noted that while many women feel respected and well-treated, others report discrimination, harassment, and disrespect on the job—hostile working conditions that drive women out of the trades.15 Advocacy groups such as the National Tradeswomen Taskforce, local tradeswomen groups, and labor, government, community, and industry partners see these as critical issues that must be addressed.
of all workers in the construction industry have at least one child under the age of 6
Many women face another challenge: When surveyed, 69.3 percent of mothers with children under 18 who considered leaving the construction trades listed difficulties finding child care as a “somewhat” or “very important” factor for leaving. Similarly, 52.4 percent of tradeswomen under 35 without children who also considered leaving the industry listed lack of child care as a “somewhat” or “very important” factor in that decision.16 This survey, conducted among current tradeswomen, did not capture those who may have declined a job or an apprenticeship due to the inability to find suitable child care and therefore never entered the trades. And while the pandemic has resulted in more flexibility and remote work options for many, construction is an industry that requires workers to be fully onsite—a difference that researchers at the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute found made workers more likely to take leave or exit the workforce entirely.17
Importantly, the issue of child care is not unique to women. Nineteen percent of all workers in the construction industry have at least one child under the age of 6.18 A variety of other groups who are underutilized in the labor force also have child care needs, including individuals reentering the workforce and the community after incarceration, individuals and families who qualify for child care subsidies but do not currently receive a subsidy from their state, and individuals who have low incomes but not low enough to qualify for child care subsidies.
Occupational segregation: By the numbers
of the estimated 800,000 new American jobs created by the IIJA over 10 years are projected to go to women
of construction and extraction occupations in 2022 were filled by women
of mothers with children under 18 who considered leaving the construction trades listed difficulties finding child care as a “somewhat” or “very important” factor for leaving
of tradeswomen under 35 without children who considered leaving the construction trades listed lack of child care as a “somewhat” or “very important” factor in that decision
This is the case for many apprentices or workers who are still early in their careers. Graduates of apprenticeship programs—or journey-level workers—earn solid wages, averaging $77,000 upon program completion.19 However, a typical entry-level apprentice wage is 40 to 50 percent of the journey-level salary, meaning a worker may be paid closer to $39,000 annually.20 Eligibility for child care subsidies requires families to be at or below 85 percent of the state median income; yet states often set more narrow eligibility criteria that vary between states. In addition, states often impose lower income eligibility to prioritize families with the greatest need—as low as $26,000 in annual income21—resulting in a lack of options for those with low incomes just above the threshold.
Infrastructure industries also have unique hours that require unique child care structures. For example, in construction trades, work often begins far earlier than the opening hours of traditional child care facilities—which have operational hours that often mirror those of office jobs or the K-12 school day. Furthermore, construction workers may work at multiple sites, which affects commuting patterns. And the project-specific, temporary nature of the industry means that workers may be busy for weeks at a time and, likewise, laid off for weeks or months at a time.22
These challenges come to a head during a unique moment in American history. Investments in American infrastructure significantly increase the need for a training pipeline of qualified workers. At the same time, legislative, executive, and administrative actions can increase the likelihood that these infrastructure jobs will be high quality and good paying and that more people will have access to them.
Read more on occupational segregation:
Occupational Segregation in America
Child care support during workforce training enables better outcomes across industries, including construction
Despite the growing evidence that supportive services—such as child care—break down employment barriers and enable better outcomes in workforce training programs, access to these services is limited. A 2017 gold standard evaluation of the federally funded Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and Adult and Dislocated Worker programs found that workforce system customers who received supportive services—in-kind or financial assistance with supports such as child care, transportation, tools, and more—were more likely to complete training than those who did not. Despite the positive benefit of supportive services for job seekers, only about 20 percent of full WIA customers had access to them.23
This lack of access is partially driven by the fact that under WIA—and its successor, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—local workforce boards can set their varying policies and limits for supportive services expenditures, regardless of the circumstance of the individual job seeker.24 A more recent local rules sampling shows varied allowances and policies, ranging anywhere from $500 to $5,000 annual limits per job seeker on supportive service spending.25 According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median yearly child care price in 2022 dollars ranges from $5,357 and $17,171,26 meaning that the current limits on supportive services spending cover only a fraction of the cost of child care.
The concept of industry-specific child care has been successful in other settings, most notably in the health care sector. For example, some hospitals operate on-site child care centers as a recruitment and retention strategy, and one-third of U.S. hospitals offer some type of child care benefit, such as a subsidy or backup care.27 In contrast, only 1 in 10 American workers overall report access to any type of child care benefit from their employer. Many of these child care investments in the health care sector were an innovative solution during another time of critical shortage—the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital executives report these investments have seen strong returns in terms of recruitment, retention, and employee satisfaction.28
Likewise, improving access to child care during a training period in the construction industry is a particularly effective tool to increase retention.
The unique hours and locations of infrastructure job sites require an industry-specific, worker-centered approach to child care for parents; and IIJA funding offers an opportunity to address this gap.
In Oregon, the Apprentice-Related Child Care program, managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, offers apprentices uniquely generous subsidies for child care, at up to $2,500 per month.29 A recent analysis of Oregon’s Highway Construction Workforce Development Program found that access to child care subsidies substantially increased the likelihood that registered apprentices completed their training. Notably, completion rates for women and people of color increased by 21 percent, while completion rates for white men increased by 37 percent. Oregon’s program is notable in that it includes family, friend, and neighbor care as reimbursement-eligible child care providers—a structure that may be more feasible for apprentices who work hours less compatible with traditional child care settings.30
Meanwhile, in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) recently announced a historic 40 percent expansion of the Illinois Works Pre-Apprentice Program, which offers training, a stipend, and supportive services to a diverse group of pre-apprentices looking to enter the skilled trades.31 First launched in 2019, the program uses a cost-of-living determination to calculate the amount of a stipend received by pre-apprentices, while all enrollees with demonstrated need qualify for wraparound and supportive services, including child care, regardless of income.32 This proactive approach ensures that all pre-apprentices have the opportunity to access supportive services and increases their likelihood of completing the program and joining the construction workforce.
Unions and community organizations have also developed a variety of efforts to address child care needs for infrastructure workers in the construction industry. In Boston, Care That Works, a pilot program that organizes child care for those with “nonstandard schedules,” connects construction workers to child care and provides partial subsidies to care providers who operate during early, nontraditional hours.33 Moreover, North America’s Building Trade Unions has launched two child care pilots: Milwaukee’s program provides vouchers for child care near the job site, while New York City’s program provides vouchers for care in various locations.34
These pilots will enable a diverse group of apprentices and workers to access child care and employment. But the programs are small and localized, and the industry’s workforce needs are substantial. In addition, the unique hours and locations of infrastructure job sites require an industry-specific, worker-centered approach to child care for parents; IIJA funding offers an opportunity to address this gap.
Child care and supportive services: Spotlight on a program’s budget
While investments in supportive services can seem daunting, a small investment on the part of a state department of transportation can yield meaningful returns for workers and projects.
In Oregon, legislation requires the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to spend half of 1 percent of federal funds every biennium—up to $2,100,000—on preparing workers to enter the highway construction field and diversifying the workforce. These funds cover a broad array of activities, including pre-apprenticeship programs, mentoring, supportive services, child care, and others.35
Between July 2019 and December 2022, ODOT spent $340,027 on child care services, supporting 75 apprentices during that time. Nearly two-thirds—62.7 percent—of these funds go to subsidies, while the remainder covers outreach services, assistance with paperwork, case management, connecting with child care providers, and processing paperwork.36
These expenditures are a small fraction of the agency’s total budget: ODOT receives approximately half a billion dollars every year from the Federal Highway Administration and projects to collect approximately $5.1 billion in total revenue from 2021 to 2023.37
Infrastructure funding offers an opportunity to access child care for workers in training and meet employer needs
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and CHIPS and Science Act include legislated standards that are likely to increase equitable access to good jobs. For example, prevailing wage and benefit standards cover most IIJA funds and CHIPS and Science construction funds; the IRA requires contractors to pay prevailing standards and employ registered apprentices for a certain number of work hours to access the full amount of the construction tax credit; and a portion of IIJA funds allow use of local and targeted economic hire policies that can ensure local communities have greater access to good jobs.38
The Biden administration has further committed to achieving these goals through implementation of executive, administrative, and policy actions. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, and other agencies with infrastructure funds have included language in discretionary procurements that prioritize applicants with good jobs and equity standards, including applicants that plan to provide workers with access to supportive services such as child care.39
Most notably, the Department of Commerce, recognizing that access to child care is a workforce recruitment and retention strategy, recently announced that companies receiving more than $150 million in CHIPS subsidies would be required to develop a plan to provide access to child care for workers building or operating semiconductor manufacturing facilities.40 And the Department of Labor, under the umbrella of its Good Jobs Initiative, works across infrastructure agencies to support access to good jobs, including drafting standard procurement language that prioritizes “provisions for supportive services … [that] may include, but are not limited to … assistance with child care.”41
There are many programs across the IIJA and CHIPS and Science Act—beyond the specific ones mentioned in this report—that include workforce development as an allowable expense for applicants.42 All of the Department of Energy’s IIJA-funded projects should include a community benefits plan, which means individual contractors can include access to support services, such as child care, as a way to increase equity in the workforce.43
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Inflation Reduction Act, and CHIPS and Science Act include legislated standards that are likely to increase equitable access to good jobs.
One of the most straightforward opportunities for states to support workforce development and supportive services for infrastructure workers lies in the IIJA’s core highway funding. The IIJA allocates $241.6 billion to surface transportation infrastructure under four core programs: the National Highway Performance Program (NHPP), the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG), the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program.44
Previously, under 23 U.S.C. 140(b), states were allowed to use half of 1 percent of surface transportation block grant funds for on-the-job training supportive services activities. In 2014, Congress passed the FAST Act, which included 23 U.S.C. 504(e), allowing states to use its large four formula funds to support workforce and education activities. Then, the IIJA expanded 504(e) to allow formula funds for activities related to workforce development needs on construction projects, meaning states could ostensibly use all formula funds for the set of supportive services previously only allowed for half of 1 percent of these core highway funds. Guidance from the Federal Highway Administration also clarifies the types of activities that are eligible uses of funding, a wide array of services including tuition, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships, recruitment and outreach, technical assistance, and supportive services, inclusive of child care.45 Notably, these types of eligible workforce activities do not require nonfederal matching from states; and this type of expenditure would not reduce surface transportation block grant funds suballocated to local governments.
This funding opportunity can support child care needs for pre-apprentices, apprentices, and workers involved in education, training, and workforce development activities and, in doing so, meet industry’s demand for workers.
How To Support Good Jobs and Workforce Equity on Federal Infrastructure Projects
Recommendations: 3 ways states can fund child care and recruit, train, and retain infrastructure workers
Supportive services funding for child care—specifically for construction workers—must meet several criteria to be successful:
- Engage workers early to ascertain parents’ needs and the funding structure and program design that would be most successful.
- Partner directly with the state’s lead agency on child care, taking advantage of their expertise and care-specific relationships to navigate child care delivery.
- Facilitate actions to provide child care during nontraditional hours necessary for construction work.
- Ensure stable funding for child care providers despite the seasonal nature of construction work and fluctuating child care
- Invest in outreach activities and proactive needs assessments, ensuring that the largest number of eligible pre-apprentices and apprentices can access services.
- Implement solutions that promote sustainability in the child care sector, such as addressing recruitment and retention issues by partnering with programs that pay child care workers competitive wages.
Given the critical role of child care in enabling work and the opportunity to invest in supportive services, state and local agencies should allocate infrastructure funding to child care services. This report offers three potential funding models that would address trainee workers’ needs and help contractors and infrastructure agencies hire and retain workers, thus ensuring that projects are more likely to be completed on time. These proposals provide complementary options that are designed to work within the existing child care system and that can work well separately or in combination with each other.
Fund child care and supportive service navigators
State departments of transportation should fund case managers or navigators tasked with helping multiple programs or families find and maintain their child care arrangements and supporting the child care providers serving these workers. This role could complement other supports and help families utilize available benefits. The support could include assisting workers and families apply for a child care subsidy, working with child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agencies to find openings, and helping families with backup or emergency child care.
Applying for a subsidy often requires substantial knowledge and resources discouraging families from applying even if they would qualify. Having individuals who can guide and support families through the process means they are much more likely to find an arrangement that meets their needs. The navigator role could also facilitate relations between providers and child care agencies, providing support in licensing and becoming eligible to accept child care subsidies. In areas where family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care is eligible for subsidies, the navigator can help identify the care provider and work with them through the approval process.
Navigators for employment benefits have been successful in a variety of other areas, such as unemployment and employee benefit systems. States would likely find similar success placing navigators in educational, union, or other training settings.46 Many employees do not take full advantage of the benefits offered to them because they lack the specialized knowledge of the systems. Working with individuals who understand their specific needs and whose entire goal is to help them succeed can lead to better use of benefits overall.
Provide child care payment assistance for infrastructure workers
State departments of transportation could use one of several mechanisms to assist workers participating in qualifying workforce development activities in paying for child care:
- Make direct payments to the provider a family chooses to fit their needs.
- Transfer funds to the state child care agency for workforce supports.
- Provide grants to intermediaries, such as pre-apprenticeship programs and registered apprenticeship programs, that would be responsible for payments to providers. In this model, intermediaries may work to provide access to a suite of supportive services, inclusive of child care, transportation, tools, and other worker needs.
Child care assistance should not be paid directly to workers or trainees, as it could be considered additional income, complicating their standing for other benefits and support programs.
All states have existing subsidy systems that give families financial support to pay for child care. The state lead agency that maintains the child care subsidy system sets the payment rate and has a list of qualified providers that have agreed to accept a publicly funded voucher for child care. Using these resources, the state department of transportation could work with the lead child care agency and local CCR&R agencies to administer a workforce subsidy, either paying the rates already set by the state or supplementing these payments to providers. States should consider the need to pay rates greater than what has been set by the child care lead agencies, particularly given construction workers’ need for nontraditional hour care. Current child care subsidy rates are often insufficient to cover the cost of providing care, resulting in insufficient supply of child care.47
States can meet their infrastructure goals, enable employment for more workers, and provide quality services to children by investing a portion of their eligible IIJA funds in strategic child care partnerships.
This mirrors and expands the previously mentioned North America’s Building Trades Unions program that has created small subsidy pilot programs on the local level, specifically for the construction workforce, as well as Oregon’s Apprentice-Related Child Care program. Notably, the support provided by Oregon’s program is designed to cover both copayments and other tuition costs that exceed the state subsidy rate if a worker has already qualified for Oregon’s Employment Related Day Care program.48
Another approach that is not exclusive to construction or infrastructure is the Michigan Tri-Share program, a pilot that shares child care costs across three groups, combining state funding, employer funding, and employee payments to cover the cost of child care.49 Employees approved for the program can select any licensed child care provider that meets their needs.50 Child care providers who enroll a participating child receive their payments directly from the Michigan Tri-Share facilitator hub, an intermediary that collects funds from the state, employer, and employee.51 The program has demonstrated early success. Others seeking to invest in child care to support their workforce—such as North Dakota52 and Noble County, Indiana53—are exploring the idea of developing similar state-employee-employer partnerships.
This type of program would allow parents to choose a provider that fits their family’s preferences or needs. However, it would not guarantee that a spot is available at a provider or that providers would have hours that match their schedules. To address this limitation, Oregon’s program permits FFN care providers to receive the subsidies if they register as a provider under the Oregon Department of Human Services, allowing greater flexibility in child care arrangements.54 Families working nontraditional hours have indicated stronger preferences for care in their home or someone else’s home, feeling that it better meets both the family’s and the child’s needs.55
FFN and FCC providers
Family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) and family child care (FCC) providers offer greater flexibility and matching to specific needs. FFN typically refers to an informal, unlicensed care arrangement provided by an individual with a relationship to the child or family, such as a grandparent or aunt.56 They provide care for a single child or a small group, which, in combination with their preexisting relationship, allows them to match their hours directly to the family’s needs. FCC providers, on the other hand, are licensed child care providers who operate out of their own home, caring for a group of children while meeting all state safety requirements.57 FCC providers typically care for a smaller group of children relative to a child care center, allowing the provider more flexibility to match the care they provide to the needs of the families they serve.
Contract with providers to secure designated child care slots
Agencies could also consider developing contracts with local child care providers near job or training sites to secure dedicated spots for their eligible workforce. The contract arrangement would guarantee a certain number of spots for eligible parents engaged in workforce development activities. The identified providers would need to offer care during the same hours as the work or training.
In the case of Boston’s previously referenced pilot, Care That Works, the program offers nontraditional-hour care by contracting with FCC providers who agree to open at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m.58 The pilot—a partnership between labor unions, child care providers, and the city—pays a fixed amount to the providers they partner with, in addition to the standard weekly rate that families pay themselves or through the child care subsidy program.59 The pilot pays FCC providers at a higher rate to work these longer or more difficult hours, an integral part of ensuring that there are providers willing to participate and meet the needs of workers.60
Identifying local child care providers—both center and family child care—serving the workforce pipeline would create strong relationships and security for parents to know they have a guaranteed care arrangement for their children. Providers would receive stable income from the contract, helping them plan for the less traditional hours of care. Moreover, having many families who all need specific hours would mean that the providers could plan for the necessary hours, dividing the costs among the group and developing a schedule that meets the construction workforce’s needs.
Arranging care in this way may be difficult; most providers have waitlists of families they cannot serve because they are operating at capacity, and expanding or hiring more staff can be a challenge in the short term. Additionally, workers going to multiple job sites or working on seasonal and shorter-term projects may not have the consistency required for this arrangement. Such a solution would be most functional for those working or receiving training on a long-term basis in one consistent location.
States Can Improve Child Care Assistance Programs Through Cost Modeling
States can meet their infrastructure goals, enable employment for more workers, and provide quality services to children by investing a portion of their eligible IIJA funds in strategic child care partnerships. While this may be a less traditional way to spend infrastructure funds, these are crucial investments to ensure that projects have a diverse and robust workforce pipeline.
Yet to meet these infrastructure workforce needs, there must be additional investments in the nation’s child care workforce. The transportation funds available for child care as a supportive service are not able to address many of the problems in the child care sector. However, it is necessary to address the national shortage of child care, as well as the low pay and job quality that has made it difficult to attract workers to available child care jobs, in order to sustain the labor force in the long term. States should look to improve child care jobs and increase supply through their investments in supportive services, where possible, and to integrate these investments as part of a larger approach to ensuring that workers have accessible and affordable child care.
Investing in child care as a supportive service meets both public and private needs, resulting in a stronger workforce for a critical industry.
America’s infrastructure and economy need parents to be able to go to work in essential fields. Parents should know that their children are safe and cared for while they work. Investing in child care as a supportive service meets both public and private needs, resulting in a stronger workforce for a critical industry.
The authors of this report are grateful to the staff of the programs and agencies highlighted in this report for their insight and expertise and to Larry Williams, Ariane Hegewisch, Robert Puente, and Julie Kashen for their comments.
- Joseph W. Kane, “Seizing the U.S. Infrastructure Opportunity: Investing in Current and Future Workers” (Washington: Brookings Institution, 2022), available at https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/InfraJobsUpdate_final.pdf.
- Leila Schochet, “The Child Care Crisis Is Keeping Women Out of the Workforce” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2019), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/child-care-crisis-keeping-women-workforce/.
- Ariane Hegewisch, “Child Care Supports for the Construction Trades: Building and Sustaining Diversity in Oregon” (Washington: Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2020), available at https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/IWPR-Oregon-Child-Care-in-Construction-2020-Final.pdf.
- Sandra Bishop, “$122 Billion: The Growing, Annual Cost of the Infant-Toddler Child Care Crisis” (Washington: Council for a Strong America, 2023), available at https://www.strongnation.org/articles/2038-122-billion-the-growing-annual-cost-of-the-infant-toddler-child-care-crisis.
- Sports & Leisure Research Group, “A Current Snapshot of Those Unemployed During the COVID 19 Pandemic” (Washington: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2022), available at https://www.uschamber.com/assets/documents/Pandemic-Unemployed-Survey-May-2022.pdf.
- Taryn W. Morrissey, “Child care and parent labor force participation: a review of the research literature,” Review of Economics of the Household 15 (2017): 1–24, available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s11150-016-9331-3.
- Henning Hermes and others, “Early Child Care and Labor Supply of Lower-Ses Mothers: A Randomized Controlled Trial” (Bonn, Germany: IZA Institute of Labor Economics, 2022), available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=4307468.
- Rasheed Malik, Katie Hamm, and Leila Schochet, “America’s Child Care Deserts in 2018” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2018), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/americas-child-care-deserts-2018/.
- Rasheed Malik, “The Build Back Better Act Substantially Expands Child Care Assistance,” Center for American Progress, December 2, 2021, available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/the-build-back-better-act-substantially-expands-child-care-assistance/.
- Maureen Coffey, “Still Underpaid and Unequal: Early Childhood Educators Face Low Pay and a Worsening Wage Gap” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2022), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/still-underpaid-and-unequal/.
- Adam S. Hersch, “‘Build Back Better’ agenda will ensure strong, stable recovery in coming years” (Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2021), available at https://www.epi.org/publication/iija-budget-reconciliation-jobs/; Sharita Gruberg, Jessica Mason, and Katherine Gallagher Robbins, “Historic Investments in Good Infrastructure Jobs Can’t Leave Women Behind” (Washington: National Partnership for Women and Families, 2022), available at https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/economic-justice/reports/infrastructure-investment-jobs-act.html.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Labor Force Statistics from Current Population Survey: 11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity,” available at https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm (last accessed February 2023).
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- Norman Ruano, deputy director of Illinois Works, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, email correspondence with authors, March 23, 2023, on file with authors.
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- Larry Williams, supportive services specialist, Oregon Department of Transportation-Bureau of Labor and Industries (ODOT-BOLI) Workforce Development Program, email correspondence with authors, March 16, 2023, on file with authors.
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- Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and Michele Evermore, “5 Facts About Unemployment Insurance Navigator Grants,” U.S. Department of Labor, January 31, 2022, available at https://blog.dol.gov/2022/01/31/5-facts-about-unemployment-insurance-navigator-grants; Karla Walter, “How States and Unions Can Partner To Build the Public Sector Workforce: 4 Case Studies of Training Programs” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2023), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/how-states-and-unions-can-partner-to-build-the-public-sector-workforce/; David Madland and Malkie Wall, “Union Unemployment Insurance Navigators Would Be a Boon to Jobless Workers” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2021), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/union-unemployment-insurance-navigators-boon-jobless-workers/.
- Maureen Coffey, “States Can Improve Child Care Assistance Programs Through Cost Modeling” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2023), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/states-can-improve-child-care-assistance-programs-through-cost-modeling/.
- Larry Williams, supportive services specialist, ODOT-BOLI Workforce Development Program, email correspondence with authors, March 16, 2022, on file with authors.
- Michigan Women’s Commission, “MI Tri-Share,” available at https://www.michigan.gov/mwc/initiatives/mi-tri-share-child-care (last accessed March 2023).
- Michigan Women’s Commission, “Employee Information and Eligibility,” available at https://www.michigan.gov/mwc/initiatives/mi-tri-share-child-care/tri-share-faqs/faq-categories-folder/employee-information-and-eligibility (last accessed March 2023).
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- North Dakota Office of the Governor, “Burgum, Sanford unveil child care proposal to support working families, address workforce challenges,” Press release, September 13, 2022, available at https://www.governor.nd.gov/news/burgum-sanford-unveil-child-care-proposal-support-working-families-address-workforce.
- Indiana Economic Digest, “Noble County launching tri-share child care program, which may be the first of the kind in Indiana,” Press release, October 13, 2022, available at https://indianaeconomicdigest.net/Content/Default/Major-Indiana-News/Article/Noble-County-launching-tri-share-child-care-program-which-may-be-the-first-of-the-kind-in-Indiana/-3/5308/112530.
- Kelly, “2022 Evaluation of the Highway Construction Workforce Development Program.”
- Diane Schilder and others, “What Child Care Arrangements Do Parents Want during Nontraditional Hours?” (Washington: Urban Institute, 2022), available at https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/2022-03/What%20Child%20Care%20Arrangements%20Do%20Parents%20Want%20during%20Nontraditional%20Hours_0.pdf.
- Rob Grunewald and Ben Horowitz. “What is family, friend, and neighbor child care?”, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, January 8, 2019, available at https://www.minneapolisfed.org/article/2019/family-friend-and-neighbor-child-care.
- ChildCare.gov, “Family Child Care Homes,” available at https://childcare.gov/consumer-education/family-child-care-homes (last accessed March 2023).
- Care That Works, “Interest Form,” available at https://carethatworks.org/interest-form/ (last accessed March 2023).
- Shira Schoenberg, “Pilot program will offer early morning childcare in Boston,” CommonWealth Magazine, September 30, 2020, available at https://commonwealthmagazine.org/education/pilot-program-will-offer-early-morning-childcare-in-boston/.
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “Expanding Child Care Beyond Usual Hours: Employers, Unions, and Government” (Washington: 2022), available at https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/6-Care-Beyond-Usual-Hours1.pdf.
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