LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) – A La Crosse child care provider is hoping area high school students can help fill a growing number of vacant child care positions.
Like many areas across the country, the Coulee Region is facing a child care shortage, which is being caused by a lack of workers.
“In March in La Crosse County, there were 74 open child care positions, and that accounted for at least 296 unfilled slots,” said Audra Wieser, Early Care and Education Director with The Parenting Place. “If we could just hire people to work in child care, we could increase capacity by almost 300 children.”
Wieser says that as more and more families struggle to find adequate care, a greater amount of attention is being paid to the issue.
“There’s a lot of federal funding, and a lot of state funding being directed towards child care,” Wieser explained. “We’re optimistic that there will be some really innovative and new programs coming down the pike.”
The Parenting Place itself is piloting one of those innovate programs, which is looking to get area teens interested in child care careers.
This summer, The Parenting Place will launch a Child Care Explorers program, where high school students will learn necessary skills to work in child care.
“Child development, challenging behaviors, different curriculums, Waldorf, Montessori, all those different things,” Parenting Place Training Coordinator Sara Horstman listed. “They will also have certificates when they come out where they’ll get CPR certified, and abusive head trauma, and SIDS prevention training.”
Since 17-year-olds can now qualify to work in child care centers, Horstman believes the teenage demographic is an untapped resource that can fill child care vacancies.
Horstman hopes the explorers program will create enthusiasm about joining the child care workforce.
“When people are passionate about something, they’re willing to stay into something very long, so we’re really hoping to bolster the workforce, build that passion, so that they maintain this career path,” Horstman expressed.
The Parenting Place is capping the first year of the program at 25 participants, and Horstman says 15 high schoolers have signed up so far.
There’s no set date for when the program will get underway, but Horstman expects it to begin by early July.
The La Crosse Community Foundation and the City of La Crosse’s ARPA allocation helped fund the Child Care Explorers program.
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