Fast-growing First Adventure Learning hones approach to finding, keeping workers

Sept. 17, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

This time each year is especially tough when it comes to finding workers in the child care industry.

First Adventure Learning Center felt it acutely one year ago as college students left part-time jobs to go back to class and others found full-time elementary teaching jobs.

So Jess Holte, who founded the business with her husband, Ryan, in 2010, changed her approach.

“We were not getting the employees we needed in the door,” she said. “And to create the quality we want, we need people coming in the door. We changed our interview process asking: What do they (our potential employees) need? What’s important for them? What’s the future for them?”

The hiring process became more immersive. Potential employees were given tours of First Adventure and the chance to explore working in classrooms of different ages and with different co-workers.

“If they like the people they’re working with and the age they’re working with, we have a higher chance of keeping them,” Holte said.

First Adventure’s growth has meant the need for many more employees. It started out of Holte’s home and then grew to a location in northwest Sioux Falls. It has added two more child care and preschool centers in southwest and southeast Sioux Falls.

Staffing all of them requires about 150 people and has created opportunities for advancement for people like Laurie Senn. When she started working in a classroom, shortly after it opened, there were three employees.

Since then, she has gone from a toddler teacher to running her own classroom to overseeing a center to her current role as director of health and safety.

“The great thing about First Adventure is they hire from within. They promote from within,” Senn said, adding that bringing her children to work with her when they were young was another big benefit.

“Jess and Ryan started it for their family, and it’s always been a family dynamic. That I get to bring my kids with me makes it great for the family,” she said.

As the business has grown, it has provided growth opportunities for many staff, Jess Holte said.

“We’ve been able to take people who started as teachers and build them up to management, and that’s great for them and their families.”

For Holte, who started the business out of her home after being unable to find child care she felt comfortable with for her own child, it has been a somewhat unbelievable ride.

“I never expected it. I pinch myself all the time wondering how I got here,” she said.

Here are some other workforce strategies First Adventure Learning Center has used in scaling up.

  • Adding benefits. As the business has grown, it has been able to assist with insurance for employees, offer paid time off and holiday pay.
  • Online hiring. Facebook advertising has been a good way to connect with potential applicants for First Adventure.
  • Focus on family. Employees with children can bring them to work and receive a child care discount.
  • Show appreciation. “A thank-you goes a long way,” Holte said.
  • Flexible scheduling. Because it operates 12 hours a day, First Adventure can offer shifts at various times of day and lengths.
  • Time for fun. While she holds the staff to high expectations, Holte said it should be a lighthearted place to work too. She organizes outings for staff and their families to places such as bowling centers, golf courses and restaurants.

To see more workforce development strategies, read the latest edition of WIN: Workforce Information Now from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

Fast-growing First Adventure Learning hones approach to finding, keeping workers

Back-to-school season always presents hiring challenges for child care businesses. Here’s how First Adventure Learning Center changed its approach to find and keep quality employees.

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