by Sam Jackson
The Phoenix Aviation Department launched its City of Phoenix Airport Worker Child Care Scholarship Program recently.
The program supports workers in the aviation industry who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, according to a press release. A $4 million investment with funds from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act strategic plan will fund the child care program for workers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
“This investment in our airport team members in need can be life changing,” Phoenix Mayor, Kate Gallego, said in the release. “By supporting workers, airport operations, business concessions, and families thrive. As a working mother, I know that ensuring your child has a vibrant, caring environment during the workday is paramount.”
The Aviation Department has entered into an agreement to manage the program with First Things First (FTF), a statewide organization which aims to expand early education and family support programs for children from birth to age 5, according to the release.
“Our airport is a vital part of the community and cannot function without the dedicated support of the many workers who keep it running,” District 5 City Councilwoman, Betty Guardado, said in the release. “The concessions workers who feed our passengers, the janitorial staff that keep the airport clean, the airline workers who ensure you have a safe and comfortable flight – all of them are essential to Sky Harbor, and this child care scholarship helps to ensure that we have the best people working by recognizing their efforts.”
The program will use the plan set out in FTF’s Quality First scholarship program, as well as FTF’s child care quality improvement and rating system for child care providers, the release stated.
“Now, staff at Sky Harbor International Airport will have safe, nurturing care settings to take their children while they work,” said Melinda Gulick, CEO of FTF. “In turn, their children will have access to quality early learning environments that will prepare them for success in kindergarten and beyond. We applaud the city of Phoenix for joining other local governments – like Tempe, Flagstaff and Pima County – in investing in quality child care to support both the workforce of today and the workforce of tomorrow.”
District 8 Phoenix Councilman, Carlos Garcia, represents the district where Phoenix Sky Harbor is located.
“As a parent I know how challenging it can be to balance work with child care, but with the addition of this scholarship program we have a new opportunity to invest in the community and ensure that working at Sky Harbor isn’t only one option among many, but rather an employment center of choice for our front-line workers,” Garcia said. “That is one of the best things we as a city can do.”
The program was developed to address the shortage of child care options in areas around the airport, the release stated.
“With the continually rising cost of living; parents deserve to go to work knowing their kids have a safe, nurturing environment they can afford while they focus on providing a quality life for their families,” District 7 Phoenix Councilwoman, Yassamin Ansari, said in the release. “With this program, we are hoping for it not only helps the employees currently serving our world-class airport that is now near pre-pandemic numbers, but we hope it also attracts new employees.”
The program will allow participants to select a facility anywhere in Maricopa County that has met or exceeded the standards of FTF’s Quality First program scale of 3-5 stars, the release stated.
“As we work toward creating mighty change throughout Maricopa County by 2026, we have seen firsthand the overwhelming need for help with child care costs as people return to work,” Rob Podlogar, chief community development and engagement officer at Valley of the Sun United Way, said in the release. “Speaking with families and our early childhood partners, it’s one of the greatest challenges people still face.”
Director of Aviation Services, Chad Makovsky, said the program will be vital to the rebound of the air industry.
“As an industry we have to showcase the value of an aviation career for every job in our organization,” he said. “Particularly as we see passenger traffic rebounding from the pandemic, this scholarship program is a key means to ensure that we’re ready to meet the challenges of not just the moment, but the future.”
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Sam Jackson is a journalist with The PHX Reporter.
Photo “Child Care” by Lukas.