Several reports out recently have declared that the number of young people in North Dakota (and the entire region) is relatively skyrocketing after decades of out-migration. Some of the attractants commonly listed as reasons why the region is growing in popularity for the fresh-out-of-college crowd are job availablity, low rent compared to other regions of the country, and lots of bars and clubs.
This is all true (except for maybe the rent part depending on what cities you compare), but I have yet to see a study on the amenities for young workers in our region that takes into consideration the one aspect of daily life that is as important as housing for many young workers – daycare. Sure, young people like having bars and nightclubs and funky downtowns and lots of activities. But they also have babies. And that’s what we as a region want. We need young people to stay here or move here and have families. We need young workers to fill our jobs, not just for a few months, but for the long-term. And in today’s world of single-parent households, homes with two working parents and extended families who live far away, daycares are a necessity.
Why is this a business problem? The answer is obvious: If employees can’t find quality daycare for their children they won’t work for you. They won’t move to your community, or they’ll be forced to move away, or they might have to consider quitting their job to stay home with their children because they have no other option. We covered this topic in an article earlier this year, “Child Care Crisis.” That article focused on North Dakota’s overall lack of daycares to meet demand, particularly in western North Dakota. Almost a year later, it’s still a problem. Craig Lambrecht, CEO for Sanford Health in Bismarck, N.D., recently told me workforce, housing shortages and lack of daycares are the healthcare organization’s biggest obstacles when staffing facilities in western North Dakota.
So what can businesses do to help alleviate the problem and enable our young population to continue serving as the talented workforce we need them to be? Become involved, says Heidi Hagel Braid, Minnesota director for First Children’s Finance and organizer of a new group called Greater Than Minnesota. The group is focused on increasing quality and availability of early child care in rural Minnesota and, in order to achieve this, is approaching the problem from the economic development perspective.
“A sustainable supply of affordable, high quality child care is absolutely essential to a community,” she said. “It enables parents to go to and be productive at work, prepares children for success in school and in life, and is vital to a thriving local economy.”
Greater Than Minnesota is holding a series of Child Care Town Halls throughout Minnesota to bring together child care providers, business owners, economic development officials and community leaders to discuss specific ways each community can ensure that quality child care is available for its workers. Some businesses may decide to open their own in-house child care facilities, other communities may decide to provide incentives to encourage more child care providers to open a facility. Hagel Braid emphasizes that each community is different and will likely develop its own solution. But the key is to do something. The same is to be said for communities throughout North Dakota. Step up to the table and make sure that our young people don’t have to make the choice between raising a family and having a successful career in the northern Plains.