ALLENTOWN, Pa. - There's a 200-child waitlist for childcare at the YMCA. Not because they're full, but because they're short staffed.
"Child care is not the most glorious profession. So there's been a struggle. It takes a certain kind of person to work with children," says Crystal Messer, the VP of Childcare for the Greater Valley YMCA.
She's short about 35 full-time and part-time workers across its 18 locations.
The pandemic only made it worse: "People were afraid to come out and work with children because there's no secret [that] there's germs when you work for children."
The child care labor recovery has been unsteady, incomplete, and far slower than most other industries.
A report released this month by Wells Fargo found employment in the industry is still down 12.4% compared to before the pandemic. Wells Fargo estimates it strands around a half million families.
"It leaves people in a position saying if I can get childcare, then I can go on job interviews, then I can go to work," Messer said.
The Y is participating in a state-wide Child Care Hiring Days initiative for PA from Tuesday, March 29 through Thursday, March 31, spearheaded by the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Akshara Vivekananthan, the Director of School Readiness for the Untied Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, says they were inspired by a similar event hosted in Philadelphia.
“In the state of Pennsylvania, based on a survey that was conducted in September of last year, out all of the programs surveyed, 92% indicated they were experiencing a staffing shortage,” Vivekananthan said.
“Child care is a family’s greatest need sometimes. It really connects back into them being able to work and feel safe and secure.”
Child care programs throughout the state will host walk-in, on-the-spot interviews.
"I think we will be able to make a dent in it. That is my hope and my dream - to make that happen. It is awful to have to say to a parent, I don't have room," Messer said.
You can find which locations are participating at ECEhire.com. Businesses can also sign up to participate and post openings on the ECE website.