Even at the groundbreaking, excitement was evident for the on-site child care center at the Colorado School of Mines. University community members came out with hand-made signs to show their appreciation for the new facility.
Located in Golden, Colorado, the university is in a child care desert where quality care options are slim. For those with child care needs, the scenario means daily trips to centers that are miles away before and after work, adding time and stress to their lives.
“Mines employees have long asked for on-campus childcare. Innovating and problem-solving is in our DNA, so we knew we had to find a solution to this challenge. Making this investment to support our families makes sense. It’s an important component of being an employer of choice for faculty, administrators and staff, and for attracting qualified graduate students,” says Kirsten M. Volpi, executive vice president and chief financial officer at the Colorado School of Mines.
Meeting the Needs of a Modern Demographic
With an international reputation for excellence in engineering and applied sciences, the university is a destination for faculty and staff, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and non-traditional undergraduate students, many of whom have families. While it offers a family-friendly campus, the engineering and scientific focus of the university has traditionally attracted more men than women. Mines has been taking steps to change that, attracting more females as well as a more diverse population reflective of the local Denver metro area.
To help create a more inclusive demographic, Mines partnered with Bright Horizons to offer benefits like elder care for families who need help with senior care and College Coach to assist with future-planning for high-school age dependents. The university also provides a generous parental policy as well as free health and dental benefits for all family members.
“Every higher education institution is struggling for talent. We offer great benefits, but recruiting is still a challenge, and we have to meet the evolving needs of new generations of workers. Offering on-site child care adds a differentiator that’s hard to beat,” says Volpi.
And, it’s not just moms who will welcome the center. The 9th Annual Modern Family Index found working fathers are more likely to wish their employer would do more to support their child care needs (52% vs. 45%).
“For those who use it, the center will be a time-saver. And it will allow staff and faculty to better focus at work. For us, it’s a retention strategy: if you have a child in the center, you’ll think twice about relocating somewhere else,” she says.
A Unique Institution Welcomes a Unique Child Care Facility
With a culture that’s very much focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and high-quality outcomes, it shouldn’t be surprising that the university’s child care center is designed to embrace the same values.
“We see the child care center as an extension of Mines’ commitment to STEM education. We’re working with Bright Horizons to build a high-quality curriculum that brings STEM into the classroom as early as possible. We’re preparing children to be the future of our university and of our world. Having a STEM background is critical,” says Volpi.
The emphasis on STEM isn’t just internally-focused. The center is designed to meet LEED Gold standards. It’s constructed against the natural landscape, so students can experience and interact with the natural learning environment around them.
Funded primarily by the university, the center build-out has had the support of a grant from the Colorado Department of Early Education. While available state-wide for a number of years, only a few employers have taken advantage of this funding.
“The grant requires employers to make an investment in their workforce via a full-time child care center. It increases the supply of quality child care in the state. It tells existing and future Mines’ team members that we care for them and their families not just during work hours but outside of the eight-to-five world, as well,” Volpi says.
It’s also a win for the university, county and state. According to a Ready Nation report, insufficient care for children under three causes an estimated $2.3 billion dollars a year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue.
The Right Partner is Invaluable
Recognizing collaboration is essential for unlocking innovation, Mines looked for a partner with the expertise to navigate the process from surveying employees to building a business case, securing funding, designing a state-of-the-art child care and more.
“None of this would be possible if we didn’t have Bright Horizons as a partner. Early on, when we weren’t in a position to build the child care center, Bright Horizons came to us with an interim solution, using Back-up Care, and it was really successful. It’s been a partnership that we’ve been able to rely on because Bright Horizons has always had the best interests of the Mines’ community at heart. Bright Horizons has been with us through many stops and starts, through different scenario analyses, and never once was there tension or frustration from them – just a partner who’s steadfast and with you through and through to get to the outcome that’s right for you,” says Volpi.