Discovering the ‘secret sauce’ to early childcare and learning at thread's economic summit

A panel discussion from the 2017 thread summit (Photo courtesy of thread).

A panel discussion from the 2017 thread summit (Photo courtesy of thread).

Statistics from The 2019 Kids Count Data Book released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Alaska 33rd in the nation for economic well-being. Thread — a referral network that focuses on better outcomes for Alaska’s young children by supporting families and early childhood education — is looking to change that.

This week, thread will be hosting its biennial summit, which will take an in-depth look at the economic potential of early care and learning for Alaska’s economy and communities.

“We really gear the conversations and the focus around how this sector and this industry intersects with our economy, and it’s such a critical part of our quality of life and our infrastructure, and that includes support for businesses,” Stephanie Berglund, CEO of thread, said.

Speakers at the summit include local and national leaders discussing community solutions, the McDowell Group on the latest economics of early care in the state and Credit Union 1 — an Alaskan business that’s investing in employer benefits. 

“[Credit Union 1 offers] high-quality childcare on-site for their employees at their headquarter branch, and they also offer a childcare subsidy for their employees who need quality childcare and who aren’t able to access it at their little ones,” Berglund said. “If they are in Anchorage and can’t access a space there or if they’re in any branch across the state they offer that employee benefit, which is pretty great.”

Berglund is excited Credit Union 1 will be sharing their “secret sauce” — both in how they recruit and retain their workforce and how their investment in childcare improves their bottom line.

“We know that when employers are able to recruit and retain a higher quality workforce, of course, they have a stronger outcome and return on investment for their own businesses — but that includes when employees are able to access and feel comfortable and confident that their children are safe and well cared for,” Berglund said.

Investing in early care and learning allows adults to participate in the workforce, which funnels more money into the economy. It also impacts the economy for the future.

“Children are more prepared when they enter school, which means there are cost-savings in our intervention services and special needs services at school,” Berglund said. “We have fewer children than [those] who are retained and repeated a grade. We have more children graduating high school. We lower teenage pregnancy, we see lower crime and ultimately, again, when they grow up to be adults, they are more likely to participate in the workforce and economy and have self-sufficient families themselves.”

If you’re unable to attend the summit, thread has a list of services — including an HR checklist employers can use to see if they have family-friendly policies.

A Summit on the Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning in Alaska will take place Oct. 10 at the Marriott Anchorage Downtown. The night prior, there will be a screening of No Small Matter — a film “highlighting the potential for quality early care and education to benefit America’s social and economic future” at the Bear Tooth at 5:30 p.m., followed by a Q&A with co-producer Laura Fallsgraff, and featured teacher Rachel Giannini. 

You can purchase tickets for the summit here.