Recruitment, retention efforts pay off at CDCs

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman J. Michael Peña
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs

The Child and Youth Programs at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are seeing positive returns in their recruitment and retention efforts as staffing levels continue to climb.

After the success of a first-child-free discount at child development centers, multiple pay increases and expansions of employee benefits, JBER direct-care staffing has risen to 58%, maintaining an upward trend of nearly 20 percentage points as they recover from some of the lowest recorded numbers during the pandemic.

“At JBER, we are always looking for new ways to improve our recruitment and retention,” said Heather Weafer, the 773d Force Support Squadron director of Child and Youth Programs. “We’ve increased starting pay to $18 an hour and granted our employees access to the commissary, in addition to all of the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) facilities.”

Weafer said many of the changes in recent years were necessary to be competitive with companies hiring outside the base. The benefits don’t stop with sign-on bonuses, however; caregivers can expect competitive salaries, on-the-job training, paid time off and holiday pay for regular employees, 401K options, medical and dental plan options, and tuition assistance.

The CDC classroom is a great place to start a Department of Defense (DoD) career Weafer said.  There are opportunities to grow in the Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) and General Schedule (GS) pay systems including becoming a CDC Director, Program Manager or Flight Chief! The experience of working in the CDC classroom transfers from base to base. In addition, a new community partnership was formed with the University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA).  Completed Child and Youth training can be transferred into 13 UAA credits. Weafer also pointed out that the three GS-12 Program Managers and herself who all work in CYP leadership started their DoD career in a classroom at the CDC, school-age center or youth center working directly with kids.

Samantha Meyer, a Senior Educational Technician at the Denali CDC, has been working as a direct care provider for 10 years and has experienced first-hand the difference in benefits CYP employees receive, especially when building a career.

“When I was able to have my child here for free, I was able to reallocate my would-be payments and invest them for the future,” said Meyer. “Since I don’t have to worry about paying that childcare bill, I was able to pay back a large chunk of my loan after getting my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.”

After completing her initial training, Meyer was able to contribute 12 credit hours toward her child development associate credential and was able to use $4,500 from the Air Force to pay for her classes each fiscal year. From starting as a non-appropriated fund (NAF) employee, Meyer is now a GS employee working toward her master’s degree and enjoying the career she has made out of providing direct care to the children of JBER.

“If a person wants to work in childcare, I’ve done the research, and outside centers aren’t providing nearly as much as we get here,” said Meyer. “The benefit of working here when you have a kid is knowing how other caregivers are treating your child because that’s how you are treating the kids in your room. My daughter is at Denali [CDC] and when I’m on my break, I can just pop my head in the window and see how she’s doing.”

Weafer said the 773d FSS is set on building up the employees who join the CYP family, bringing in private companies that specialize in leadership training and early childhood educators to ensure employees are receiving professional training and development during their time at JBER. She said applicants only need to be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED to apply.

For more information on how to begin your career at JBER, visit