Is education care the new elder care?

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When West Pharmaceutical Services, a medical device company headquartered in Exton, Pennsylvania, surveyed employees at its corporate head office, it found that roughly 8% of the 400 employees at that location were interested in either receiving more information about special-needs education or receiving immediate help to navigate the school system for their special-needs child.

The company brought in Debra Schafer, CEO and founder of Education Navigation, a firm that helps parents advocate on behalf of their special-needs children. She calls her services “education care,” and the benefits are designed to increase the engagement and productivity of employees with children in need of specialized support and/or education services in school.

“Employers understand the elder care arena very well. They don’t understand, necessarily, the education arena and that it’s typically 12-plus years of an employee’s life cycle that they’re dealing with these issues.”

Also see: New benefit offers education help to parents of special-needs children

Consultants with Education Navigation will come in to organizations and conduct workshops, lunch-and-learns and webinars, as well as offer one-on-one consultations with employees. The firm’s services are also available as a voluntary benefit.

West Pharmaceutical Services pays for up to three hours of services from Education Navigation as an employee benefit. It’s money well-spent, says Bethany Barnes, HR benefits specialist.

“People are really appreciative, knowing our company wanted to help them,” she says. “A lot of employees just didn’t know where to go when they needed these types of services — they were overwhelmed.”

West Pharmaceutical Services has since expanded access to Education Navigation’s services to two of its other locations in Pennsylvania.

“We have such a diverse workforce,” says Barnes. “We want to make sure we’re offering benefits that can reach everybody.”

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Voluntary benefits