June 9, 2022

New Report: Elevating the Early Childhood Workforce

The Start Strong PA campaign in partnership with Trying Together released Elevating the Early Childhood Workforce, a report that highlights the historical and current context for the underinvestment and undervaluing of the early childhood field. 


On June 9, Trying Together and Start Strong PA virtually hosted child care providers, families, advocates, policymakers, and community members to discuss the struggles early childhood educators are facing and pathways toward a more equitable, high-quality early learning system.

“Communities could not thrive without the work of the early childhood professional, but unfortunately the support of the field is not reflective of all the crucial work they deliver,” said Cara Ciminillo, executive director, Trying Together. “The ongoing fight to elevate the voice and value of the profession is challenged by the public’s perception of caregiving and historical biases attached to this notion.” 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 566,000 Pennsylvania children younger than age six (71%) had all of the adults in their household in the labor force. In order for parents to return to work and help rebuild the economy after the impact of the pandemic, they rely on early childhood educators to provide a caring and nurturing environment for their children. Without these professionals, parents are unable to work, and children will not be able to reap the benefits of high-quality child care. 

“Despite the previous infusion of federal monies used to stabilize child care programs during the pandemic, the early childhood sector remains underfunded at the federal and state levels,” said Emily Neff, director of policy and practice, Trying Together. “The workforce is subsidizing the sector and the low wages paid to these teachers is a primary cause of the current staffing crisis.”

Staffing Crisis

In March of 2022, the Start Strong PA Campaign conducted a survey of 994 child care programs across Pennsylvania which revealed the following:

  • Nearly 32,500 children currently sit on waiting lists.
  • More than 30,000 additional children could be served at respondents’ sites if they were fully staffed.
  • 91% of respondents reported staffing shortages.
  • Programs need to fill nearly 7,000 open child care positions.

“You need child care workers in order for other businesses and sectors to thrive and achieve their goals, and you can’t do that unless you put equity into child care,” said Lesely Crawford, owner and director, ABK Learning and Development Center in Pittsburgh. “That investment is critical. It’s a need.”

Pathways to Success

According to the report, the undervaluing and underfunding of child care will continue with great risk to both families’ and communities’ economic future, unless there are systemic solutions.

Pathways to success outlined in the report include prioritizing the stabilization of the early childhood workforce through increased compensation, and elevating the value of the profession. 

For details, read the Elevating the Early Childhood Workforce report.