Beaverton, OR. -- When the coronavirus pandemic brought a sudden halt to in-person education, grade schools and high schools pivoted to remote instruction. Most preschools, however, didn’t have that option. Now, thanks to the West Side Works program, preschools and childcare centers in Beaverton can get an assist as they transition to a post-pandemic economy by hiring early education students at Portland Community College completing programs in the field.
West Side Works – funded by Washington County’s investment of federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act and Worksystems, the workforce development board for Washington and Multnomah counties – is helping Beaverton preschools and childcare centers recover from the pandemic by connecting them with new employees and covering the costs of those employees’ wages.
As is the case in so many sectors of industry, the effects of COVID-19 in the childcare sector fell most heavily on women and people of color. According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, 93% of childcare workers are women, and 45% are Black, Asian, or Latinx. During the height of the pandemic, nearly 60% of the nation’s childcare businesses – about half of which are minority-owned – were forced to shut their doors.
West Side Works is a direct effort to mitigate this impact on our most vulnerable communities. The program matches students in Portland Community College’s Early Childhood Education program with eligible preschools and childcare centers and covers the student workers’ wages for their first 300 hours on the job. Once this initial period is complete – and if worker and employer are a good fit for one another – businesses have the option to hire their workers permanently.
“We have been looking for more opportunities to support the childcare sector,” said Washington County Commissioner Pam Treece. “West Side Works provides support to both students who want to grow into a childcare career and childcare businesses that are in immediate need of workers. We look forward to growing our partnership with Worksystems by expanding the program to other industries and areas of Washington County later this year.”
In order to participate in the program, businesses must meet the following criteria:
- Preschool or childcare center
- Located in Beaverton
- Identify as a small business (1,000 employees or less)
Paid workers under the program are eligible to work as preschool aides, preschool floaters, or similar entry-level positions that are appropriate to their status as Early Childhood Education students at PCC. They are considered to be additional employees and cannot replace a current employee. Student workers are eligible to work up to 40 hours per week, or up to 20 hours per week if they’re a full-time student. They earn $17 per hour, and bilingual students could be eligible for an additional premium of $2 per hour. After completing their 300 hours in the program, workers receive a $1,000 completion bonus.
Beaverton-based childcare centers are the first businesses in Washington County to benefit from West Side Works. In the coming months, the program will expand to other parts of the county to support small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
“Childcare businesses are among the sectors of the economy most impacted by the pandemic,” said Patrick Gihring, chief program officer for Worksystems. “On top of that, workers and businesses across all sectors depend on them to enable parents of young children to work. We’re happy to be co-funding and coordinating this important program with Washington County.”
To learn more or apply, visit the West Side Works web site.
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West Side Works/ Worksystems - Abe Proctor [email protected]
Washington County - Silvia Pereida [email protected]