SWVA child care initiative receives $1.24M grant
Governor approved grant to fill early education positions
The New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board will receive $1.24 million in grant funding for Ready SWVA, a child care initiative launched by United Way of Southwest Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Monday.
The United Way chapter launched Ready SWVA in December 2021 to expand access to affordable child care, strengthen the provider network and increase the number of credentialed teachers. With the grant, the chapter will work with the New River/Mount Rogers board and the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board to develop a workforce of early care providers, according to Ryan Dye, United Way of Southwest Virginia’s marketing and communications manager.
“If we want to continue to build economically and recruit higher-paying jobs — even with our partnerships with GO Virginia and other things we’re doing — child care is an extremely important piece of infrastructure, just like broadband, natural gas, highways, railroads, flat land. Child care is infrastructure, and it has to be there in order to succeed in economic development,” said Travis Staton, president and CEO of the United Way of Southwest Virginia.
In Southwest Virginia, parents lack child care services for more than 7,000 children under age 5, according to a 2019 report from the Bipartisan Policy Center.
In the 2022-24 state budget, the General Assembly allocated $3.5 million to the Ready SWVA initiative, although UWSWVA sought $14 million over two years. The United Way chapter is using the state funding to secure a child care operator for what will be its hub, which will serve more than 300 children up to age 5 and create 62 positions at a base pay of $15 per hour.
“The $3.5 million is to help the operator get established, help them with all the furnishings, supplies, curriculum…and to help do their training and recruitment for their workforce,” Staton said, as well as help with planning and design work to make sure the building is up to code for early child care.
UWSWVA issued a request for proposals earlier this year and is currently reviewing operator proposals. The nonprofit is looking at potential locations for its hub but has not closed on one yet, Staton said.
The initiative’s goal for the $1.2 million grant is to place 100 new teachers in early child care centers across the region in the next 24 months. UWSWVA and its partners will help child care centers advertise openings and provide technical assistance such as helping centers write and post job descriptions.
Ready SWVA will also focus on recruiting and training the emerging early education workforce, like interested high school juniors and seniors and college students.
“We will be working with our educational systems, the workforce investment boards, the community college systems, to basically fast track them, help them get that background check completed, help them get their first aid completed, their CPR, all of those things that they need to be able to get into the classroom to start working,” Staton said, along with helping to provide continuing professional development.
The $1.24 million grant comes from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Governor’s Set-Aside funds. The federal WIOA was signed into law in July 2014 and provided Title I funds to states to develop and support programs providing job search, education and training activities for adult, youth and dislocated workers.
Each year, the governor has discretion over a portion of the funds that may be distributed to projects based on a competitive grant process. The Ready SWVA grant is 100% funded through a grant from the U.S. Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration.