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The Sonoma County Early Childhood Education (ECE) Workforce Survey is the most comprehensive countywide effort to date to survey the ECE workforce. Designed to generate a profile of ECE providers in Sonoma County, the 2015 ECE Workforce Survey builds off of similar surveys conducted in 2006 and 2009. The 2015 survey asks about providers’ background, experience, education, professional development, wages and benefits.
Summary and Considerations for the Future
- Results suggest a need to recruit and incentivize ECE providers in the County. Wages have remained flat alongside rising living costs, making it difficult to attract and retain providers. Center Directors earn an average hourly wage ($21.64/hour) comparable to the Sonoma County living wage ($20.51/hour for a two-working-parent family) but all other Center employees, FCC Owners and employees have hourly wages below or well below the living wage. As the current workforce ages and approaches retirement, it will become even more critical to strengthen recruitment efforts and advocate for increased compensation and benefits for providers. Both FCC Owners and Center Directors report that higher wages and better health benefits would motivate them and their staff to stay in the field.
- ECE providers in Sonoma County have made some gains in educational attainment since 2006 and 2009, particularly in ECE or child development degree attainment. This may be due, in part, to the support of CARES Plus, which began a degree-focused program in 2011, offering ECE providers financial and professional support to pursue higher education. While the percent of Center staff and FCC Owners holding a child development permit has increased over the years, the overall percentage of FCC Owners holding permits is still relatively low, at 32% for 2015.
- The majority of Center Directors are familiar with the new QIRS, but nearly half of FCC Owners have never heard of it. As the County works to implement a QIRS system, establishing new criteria and support for ECE quality improvement, staff may need to focus messaging and support among FCCs to ensure this large community of providers is set up to participate and meet quality standards.
- ECE program accreditation through the NAEYC or NAFCC is considered a national standard of child care quality, and Sonoma County 4Cs is now a registered Accreditation Facilitation Site, available to assist programs in the accreditation process. Yet, very few Centers and no FCCs are currently accredited, and many providers do not see the benefit of accreditation. These findings suggest there is a continued need to educate the provider and parent community about the value and benefits of accreditation.