- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a National Early Care and Education Workforce Center, known as the ECE Workforce Center, to boost recruitment and retention of early childhood professionals, according to an HHS announcement Feb. 2.
- The center is beginning with a $30 million investment for research and technical assistance to states, communities, territories and tribal nations. Focus areas will include strengthening career pipelines and identifying and implementing sustainable ways to raise pay and benefits.
- According to HHS, the child care sector lost 80,000 jobs or about 7.5% of its workforce during the pandemic. These professionals tend to be among the lowest-paid employees in the country despite the skills needed to support young children's development, the department said.
Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization, will be leading the center, along with partner organizations: the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, BUILD Initiative, ZERO TO THREE, University of Massachusetts-Boston, and the University of Delaware.
“HHS is honored to launch this first-of-its-kind research and technical assistance center to support the essential early childhood workforce who partner with families every day to ensure young children have what they need to thrive," said department Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement.
Although demand is high for child care and early education services, the workforce is strained by shortages, low pay and job-related stress. An October 2022 survey published by Teaching Strategies, an early childhood education resource provider, found 45% of early childhood educators were struggling with mental health challenges and burnout.
Efforts have been building to strengthen the recruitment and retention of early educators. For instance, states have been dedicating portions of their federal COVID-19 emergency funds to boost supports for this workforce.
An August 2022 analysis from the National Association of State Boards of Education found state COVID money is going toward increased compensation, mental health supports, professional development and more for this group. Kentucky, for example, is using COVID funds to help child care providers increase hourly pay for workers.