Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Faith Lapidus.
And I’m Steve Ember. Today we tell about companies that provide after-school programs for the children of their employees.
Many American companies believe it is very important to keep their best workers. It can cost a lot of money for companies to hire new employees and train them. When an employee leaves after working at one company for many years, that company loses the value of the employee’s knowledge and experience.
So American companies are trying many different ways to keep their top employees. Companies compete to offer special services or benefits to their employees. This helps companies keep good workers and gain new ones.
Some companies offer employee services that are creative and different.
For example, one company offers classes during the work day in exercise, golf, yoga and foreign languages. Other companies have special programs to help their employees pay less for services like travel, buying clothes and even buying a house.
Many companies are trying to help employees take care of their children or older family members. There are programs to give new mothers more time at home before they must return to work. Some employers allow people to work special hours or even to work by computer from offices in their homes. Working from a home office is called “telecommuting” or “working virtually”.
People who do this want to be at home with their children. Or they may not like driving a long distance to work when there are many cars on the road.
Sometimes companies offer special programs to take care of children.
More than three million American children between the ages of six and twelve are home everyday after school without adult supervision.
Many older children also are home alone after school. A report from the National Institute on Out-of-School Time says that only half of the sixteen and seventeen year olds in the United States have useful activities after school.
Many experts believe that young people have too many chances to get in trouble if they do not have useful activities after school. These experts say good after-school programs for older children can help them become better leaders, better communicators and better problem-solvers.
Bright Horizons is a company that provides child care services to big American companies. Bright Horizons talked to employees at thirty-three different companies around the United States. More than two-thirds of these employees said their most important problem is finding good child care that they are able to pay for. Bright Horizons now provides many different kinds of child care services to companies. It has three times as many programs now as it did two years ago.
Many American companies are offering their own programs for the older children of their employees. A large American company called Abbott Laboratories is in Abbott Park, Illinois. In two thousand one, Abbott spent ten million dollars to build one of the largest centers in the United States to care for children. A special room called “The Lodge” offers programs for school-age children. Whenever these children are not in school, they may come to the center. It is in the same area where at least one of their parents works. The older children learn about nature, do science experiments, play games and take special trips.
Abbott Laboratories also created a program called “Summer of Service”. This program is for teenagers who are too young to work but too old for traditional summer camps. The teenagers work on projects that are fun but also provide a service to their community.
Abbott Vice President Sharon Larkin also says over the next ten years, eighty-five percent of the employees in the United States will be working parents. Right now, she says ten million workers are single parents. Ms. Larkin says it is important for companies to be friendly to families and children.
She says communities must invest in learning and development for young people today so they will be successful in the future.
American business leaders say there are many good reasons to provide child care services for their employees. They say it is easier to hire new employees when the company offers child care services. The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported that employees who do not have to worry about their children work harder. And they do not miss work as often. One researcher reported about the cost of employees not being able to go to work because of problems with child care. The cost to American businesses is three thousand million dollars every year.
Bright Horizons says ninety-eight percent of the employees who use one of its child-care programs would have taken time off from work if the child care program did not exist.
Many parents also come late to work or leave early because of problems caring for their children. When employers offer services to care for children, absences are reduced by twenty to thirty percent.
Ford Motor Company is one of the biggest American companies that provides services to families. Ford and its labor union, the United Auto Workers, created Family Service and Learning Centers in two thousand one. The centers have classes for parents. They also have programs for teenagers and older children before and after school.
Many automobile factories operate twenty-four hours a day. So child care services are offered twenty-four hours a day in some cities. Ford Chairman William Ford says, “Social issues are business issues. Businesses will only be as successful as the communities and the world they live in.”
David Terrell works at a Ford factory in Dearborn, Michigan. He says his fifteen-year-old daughter Sheena wants to be a news reporter. Mr. Terrell hopes his daughter will be able to work on a community newspaper for teenagers at the Ford Family Service and Learning Center in Dearborn. Another Ford employee in Dearborn says the young people and adults will be able to work together at the new Center to solve neighborhood problems like too many illegal drugs.
Another big American company has a different way of helping employees. The computer company, IBM, helps to pay for camps during the summer when schools are not open. These camps are offered for several weeks at the beginning and end of the summer. The camps offer many different activities for children who are eight to twelve years old. Children may attend for a week or only a few days. The cost to parents is low because IBM pays some of the cost.
A banking company called PNC Financial Services also provides programs for the children of its employees. PNC provides something called “back-up” care for young people up to age fourteen. Parents may use this service for twenty days a year when schools are not open and they do not have other child care services. PNC has centers for older children in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
These centers have computer areas, places where young people may eat or play games and kitchens where they may cook. There also is a stage where children can create video and theater presentations. PNC Vice President Kathy D’Appolonia says the only problem is that parents and children want to use the centers for more than twenty days each year.
PNC also has people who will talk to parents on the telephone about problems they may be having with their children. Ms. D’Appolonia says the problems are sometimes simple and sometimes very serious. But she says employees work harder for the company if the company works hard to serve the needs of the employees. American businesses are finding that if they invest in their employees, they are also investing in the success of their companies.
This program was written by Karen Leggett and produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Faith Lapidus.
And I’m Steve Ember. To send us e-mail, write to [email protected] To find us online, go to voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.