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Starting Small and Growing to Meet Childcare Demand

With a strong commitment to invest in the resources that will ensure success, Collins Aerospace has partnered strategically in Iowa to grow a grassroots early childhood education initiative over time into the Collins Aerospace Day Academy, providing high-quality childcare and early education support to its employees and, when possible, the broader community.

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To continue evolving this program to meet the changing needs of its workforce, support from senior leadership throughout the company who truly understand the value of providing these services to its employees has been crucial.


childcare spaces needed to meet demand

The Challenge

The Iowa Child Care Resource & Referral Program reports that employees with inadequate access to affordable childcare are more likely to be late for work, absent, or distracted while at work than parents who are comfortable with their childcare arrangements. On a national level, businesses stand to lose around $3 billion annually due to employee absenteeism as the result of childcare breakdowns.

Over the past five years, the state of Iowa lost 42% of registered childcare providers and at the same time is ranked first in the nation for the number of families in the state where both parents are working outside of the home. The total picture of the resulting childcare shortage is 359,000 spaces, a challenge that some employers in the community decided to take on.

The Solution

In Cedar Rapids, a small group of employers partnered to develop a childcare solution that would allow each company to benefit from the in-demand services while sharing the costs. With support from senior leadership, this collaborative of employers relied on subject matter experts at the Cedar Rapids Community School District to manage the program and ensure a quality learning atmosphere with activities that allow for optimal developmental progress in each child.

Due to success of that initiative and continued high demand from within the community, the Collins Aerospace Day Academy was built. This comprehensive and high-quality early education program supports the needs of employee families, including grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, and children with special needs. In addition, whenever possible, the facility is open to the general public and for drop-in childcare as well.

Getting Something off the Ground

The Collins Aerospace Day Academy was not developed over night. Like many early education initiatives, this initiative in Iowa began as a grassroots collaboration between local businesses all facing the same workforce challenges.

By partnering with other businesses to help fund a high-quality center to support the needs of the region’s working parents, Collins Aerospace was able to offer childcare solutions for its employees while sharing the expenses of the program with others in the community.

As with any early childhood education initiative, this collaborative faced many challenges. Some of the most difficult included:

  • Identifying and retaining quality staff
  • Managing staff training and new curriculum development
  • Finding available space that met all criteria
  • Addressing long wait lists for prospective families
  • Finding adequate resources to properly support the daycare program, including educational tools, toys, and playground equipment

The secret to navigating the start-up phase? A committed group of senior leadership at each company dedicated to the investment that this effort would require.

Critical Partners

No one in early childhood education workforce solutions is an island. To get this initiative running with high-quality results, the employers relied on subject matter experts from the Cedar Rapids Community School District to manage the childcare program.

Additional partners included:

Cedar Rapids Community School District
Aramark- Quality Food Service
State of Iowa Department of Human Services
National Association for the Education of Young Children
Linn Mar School District- State Wide Preschool

300+ children

enrolled in the program with 100 more on the waiting list

8 programs

including summer camp, extended day support, and statewide preschool

22 classrooms

indoors, as well as outdoor play areas and indoor multipurpose spaces

Collins Aerospace Classroom

Supporting All of Iowa’s Children

To make sure they are supporting the needs of all employee’s children, the Collins Aerospace Day Academy partners with the local school districts and Grant Wood Area Education Agency to provide services to children with special needs. These services include speech, occupational, and physical therapy for children who need the extra development support. Through the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, the staff also receive support on how to work with children who have been diagnosed with challenging behaviors or autism.

For some children, an evaluation or consultation with professionals outside the program or additional services might be needed to ensure the child can be successfully supported in the program, but that coordination becomes a wraparound service of the program.

Is this model repeatable?

The U.S. Chamber Foundation has shared many examples of this shared services model where employers share the cost to collaborate on a solution that supports the needs of a full community. The early childhood education challenge exists in every community across the country, and often businesses don’t realize that they can be the catalysts for change. In Iowa, employers identified a shared challenge, found the right subject matter experts to help guide their path, and gave the initiative their full support to help it grow.

Now, Collins Aerospace operates the Day Academy, their own stand-alone childcare program with an enrollment of over 300 children and more than 100 children on the waiting list. They have continued to work with the same partners and recently invested resources into developing a new building.

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