Laboratory operator Triad National Security LLC announced May 9 that it has negotiated an operating agreement with an expert local child care provider and small business, Bilingual Montessori School of White Rock, to enhance the child care options for Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and others in the region. Additionally, Triad and the Regional Development Corporation (RDC) have spearheaded a new, two-year certificate in Early Childhood Education at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos that would help existing child care businesses to hire more employees and expand their offerings.
Triad parent entity, the University of California, will provide $2 million for remodeling and furnishings at the new center, located at 3500 Trinity Drive, Los Alamos, near the Laboratory’s entrance. Child care services will be provided at market-competitive rates. The new center is projected to open in fall 2023 or as soon as the remodeling and required licensing are complete and staff is recruited. It is intended to serve approximately 100 children, with priority given to Lab employees, especially those whose children presently lack care.
Triad’s Board of Directors has pledged ongoing financial support for operations of the new facility. This funding comes from Triad’s member organizations: the University of California, The Texas A&M University System, Battelle Memorial Institute and its integrated subcontractors Fluor and Huntington Ingalls Industries. Neither Los Alamos National Laboratory nor the Department of Energy will be financially invested in the initiative.
“Triad is pleased to partner with Bilingual Montessori to expand the affordable, professional child care options in Los Alamos,” said Craig Leasure, vice president of the University of California’s Office of the National Laboratories. “A child care center for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees has been a huge success, and we’re taking this approach forward at Los Alamos.”
Added Jay Sures, University of California regent and chair of the National Laboratories Committee, “Expanded child care is essential to Los Alamos’ important national security mission — it means more caregivers will be able to pursue jobs at the Lab and that those employees can come to work confident that their kids are safe and happy.”
Expert provider staffs safe, secure location
Bilingual Montessori School, a local woman- and minority-owned business, was selected via a Request for Expression of Interest distributed by Triad to providers across Northern New Mexico and after a competitive process. BMS will continue to operate its White Rock location.
“Bilingual Montessori School has a long history of serving children with our quality early-childhood curriculum in Spanish and English, and we look forward to growing our BMS family through this new initiative,” said Odalys Gonzalez, director.
The Laboratory’s Dependent Caregivers Employee Resource Group and Women’s Employee Resource Group comprising about 200 people were instrumental in identifying a need through a survey of more than 900 employees and benchmarking what they hope will be a first-rate facility.
“This project is a tremendous step forward in an effort by many working parents and community advocates over several decades to increase the options for parents and caregivers in the region,” said Emily Schulze, co-chair of a Laboratory resource group for women employees. “I commend everyone for their efforts. The new center is a testament to our tenacity.”
To bring the idea to fruition, Frances Chadwick, staff director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, not only worked closely with the Triad parent companies, Laboratory staff, the county and the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, but also with Bilingual Montessori, which she and other stakeholders visited, and the real estate development firm Columbus Capital.
“We are especially pleased with the commitment Bilingual Montessori has made in this collaboration,” Chadwick said. “We are impressed with the atmosphere and quality of care. I have confidence that the new facility will be first rate.”
Supporting child care growth across the region with job training
“From the beginning, the goal of this project has been not to replace, but to augment and support child care options in the region,” emphasized Chadwick, citing that lack of trained workers has kept many existing regional child care centers from expanding.
To bridge the gap, Triad and the RDC are making a $25,000 investment in a new, two-year Early Childhood Education Certificate at UNM-LA. This stands to benefit all child care providers. The program is slated to begin in fall 2023.
“UNM-LA has a long history of listening to Lab employees and local leaders when it comes to workforce needs,” said Mike Holtzclaw, chancellor. “This new program promises to train area students for much-needed jobs and make work-life balance possible for area families.”
Laboratory Director and President and CEO of Triad, Thom Mason, said the project is a great example of what can happen when multiple organizations — from the county and state to businesses and universities — work together toward a common goal.
“Today’s announcement is a milestone for constructive collaboration between higher education, early childhood education, local government, building development, job training, the workforce and management to overcome challenges and make our community a better place in which to live and work,” Mason said.
Laboratory data indicates that the demographics of its employees have changed dramatically over the last five years. More than 40% of the Lab’s more than 14,000 employees are under age 45 and have about 3,500 children under age 13. Of those, nearly 1,300 are under age 5. Furthermore, a survey of Lab employees conducted in fall 2022 indicated that only 22% of those surveyed said they had the child care they needed.
Triad National Security comprises the three nonprofits of Battelle Memorial Institute, The Texas A&M University System and the University of California. The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the Lab, contracts with Triad to manage and operate it.