Mar 3, 2024 - Business

N.C. employers add on-site child care to support in-office workers

KinderCare at Wake Forest

Rendering: CJMW Architecture + Interior Design

Wake Forest University is adding an on-site child care center to its University Corporate Center at its Reynolda Campus in Winston-Salem, joining a national trend of employers trying to support and retain working parents.

Why it matters: North Carolina is in the midst of a child care crisis that's only gotten worse with the expiration of pandemic-era funding. Offering child care on site is not common, but it's catching on among employers.

  • Support on site is especially valuable to employers who want to encourage employees to return to the office.

By the numbers: Best Place for Working Parents, a network of 1,700 businesses nationwide promoting family-friendly employer policies, recently examined the practices of its member employers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • 11% of employers provided on-site child care between April 2021 and September 2022, per WSJ.
  • That's up from 9.3% in the first year of the pandemic, and 5.5% in the months before lockdowns began in March 2020, per WSJ.

Between the lines: KinderCare, the third-party operating the Wake Forest facility, also opened a KinderCare on the UNC Rex hospital campus in Raleigh in November 2022.

KinderCare at WFU will primarily serve the families of university faculty, staff and students. It won't be free — WFU families will still have to pay tuition.

  • The center will be open for community enrollment as spaces allow, according to the school.
  • It will be a 5-star, accredited facility offering care across eight classrooms for 120 children, ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, per the university.
  • This is the first child care center for the school's corporate center, but the university's medical center has had an on-site facility located on the Bowman Gray campus for several years, a spokeswoman told Axios.

Yes, but: Offering child care on site is a substantial investment. Employers increasingly offer other child care options, such as discounted tuition and backup care.

What they're saying: Child care is "increasingly becoming top-of-mind for employers wanting to attract and retain top talent," Dan Figurski, president of KinderCare for Employers and Champions, told Axios.

  • "Simply put, child care allows families to rejoin or stay in the workforce."

Zoom out: Roughly half of U.S. working adults in a recent Pew survey cited child care challenges as a reason for quitting their jobs. Absent those challenges, returning to in-person work could be easier, some say.

  • Bandwidth, a tech company that requires employees to work in person, opened a Montessori preschool on its new campus in Raleigh.
  • In a recent Charlotte competition challenging the community to come up with ways to transform outdated offices in Uptown into fresh new uses, a winning proposal included adding a child care facility to One Wells Fargo Center, a 42-story office tower.

The big picture: While offering on-site or nearby child care is rare, it isn't unheard of for major employers in North Carolina. Bank of America, for instance, operated a child care center in Uptown Charlotte for 20 years before its 2013 closure.

  • The center was started by the bank's former CEO Hugh McColl "to recruit talent and boost employee productivity," WCNC reported.

What's next: Construction on KinderCare at Wake Forest University is underway. It'll open in September.


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