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April 13, 2018

SEL's childcare benefit popular with workforce

By: Andrew Lenderman   Comments: 0
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories' Family Center opened in 2015, and today there's a waiting list for this popular childcare center located on the company's Pullman campus. (Image courtesy SEL)

Every day, more than 100 families drop their kids off at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories’ (SEL) Family Center.

Parents enter the building with secure biometric readings, check in with staff, and say goodbye before going to work nearby. The Family Center opened in 2015 at SEL’s corporate headquarters in Pullman, an investment already paying off for families and the employer.

“It has been something that employees have been talking about for a long time,” Human Resources Manager Michele Beehler said.

The talk turned to action. This is what innovative employers do best: Identify a problem, research solutions, and fix it. To learn more about SEL’s creative solutions, sign up today for AWB’s Early Childhood Learning Event this Tuesday, April 17 at the Seattle Airport Marriott.

Beehler and other state and national experts will make the business case for investing in early childhood learning at this half-day event, presented in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce.

SEL’s investments are extensive. The Family Center cost $4 million and covers 28,000 square feet, which includes the childcare center on the first floor and a health center and gym on the second floor. Designers created separate entrances for both, so there’s no stairwell to pose safety hazards for toddlers.

The company manages the childcare facility directly, and staffs it with 38 SEL employees. Employees pay about $1,100 a month for infant care and roughly $500-600 for school-aged childcare, which is a bit less than local market rates. Today, there’s a significant waiting list for all classes.

These solutions came from the company’s employee-owner culture of innovation, Beehler said.

“We’re innovators at heart and we want to be able to do things ourselves whenever possible,” she said.

Beehler also said the company reached out to state licensing officials early in the process and have maintained a positive relationship.

“We engaged with them very quickly when we started down this path, to develop that partnership,” she said.

Officials at the state Department of Early Learning have offered guidance and feedback throughout, she said.

Childcare problems impact American businesses in a big way, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports, with turnover, absences and billions in lost productivity. The chamber’s message is that an investment in early childhood learning is an investment in the workforce – today and in the future. Learn more at this Tuesday’s event.