In just the last few months companies have sprung up to meet the need for education support for the children of the home-bound workforce – filling in the gaps or picking up the pieces of online or at-home instruction and providing an option when return-to-school concerns crop up.
Whether you call them tutors or on-demand, high-end curriculum programs, access to these supplemental services is not new. What is new is that some of the companies offering these wares are expressly packaging their service as a work perk, aiming to sell them as corporate benefit, paid by the companies instead of the parents.
“Uncertainty over school re-openings is adding to the already high stress, anxiety and frustration felt by homebound parents who have had their children at home since March,” said John Murray, CEO of the New York City based tutoring company Noodle PROs. Murray says the company started offering their “schoodle program” to their own employees, “as a well-being benefit” and has now made it, “available to families directly and through their employers.”
On the other side of the country in Santa Monica, Elyssa Katz, a mother of three founded The Zutor Concierge during the pandemic’s work-and-learn-at-home realities. Zutor, she says, is a tutor match-making service that is now being pitching to employers as a benefit. “I hear stories daily about how much stress the families were under this past spring. Many of the parents who contacted me were not working and had given up at being their child’s “teacher.” Now imagine a parent who needs to go to work to pay bills and help their child with distance-learning; it’s virtually impossible,” Katz said.
Positioning tutoring as a work benefit is good business for tutor provider and smart business for the employer. Katz and Murray both mentioned that great benefits help good companies stand out to valued employees. In addition, Katz said, an education benefit for kids would help companies get more time and attention from their workers. Education support, “is one less thing their employee needs to worry about, and in turn, they could be more productive at work,” she said.
There’s no question there’s a need for strong and widely available tutoring or supplemental teaching and instruction, especially now. The current system of hybrid or online learning simply isn’t cutting it at any level.
“Families who don’t have the means, cash and/or technology, to use academic support services must rely on their school districts and hope they come through, otherwise their children may be left behind,” Murray said. Families with means, he said, are already making their own opportunities such as forming, “their own micro-schools,” he said.
The wealth dichotomy is clear, which may be a selling point for tutoring as a workplace benefit, expanding the services to more families who may not otherwise have access.
At the same time, a workplace delivery system only reaches those who kept their jobs or had jobs that allowed them to work from home in the first place, bypassing many of the most in need. There’s also a risk that such a benefit could slide up the workplace compensation scale. College admissions coaching and mentoring for the children of employees has, for example, long been a notorious perk for C-Suite office holders – expanding opportunities for those with plenty already.
Still, with unquestioned need and presenting a direct benefit to companies, tutoring supports offered by an employer may be the next evolution of workplace perk. It could fall in line with the way some companies, Murry said, already, “provide childcare other caregiver benefits” for employees. Or the way, Katz says, “Many companies already offer caregiver benefits for when an employee’s child is sick. Education services should be just as important.”
And companies with remote or displaced workers may be listening. Schoodle, Murray said, is already, “working with a couple of recruiting and HR firms.” And Katz said she has, “been contacted by several companies in the past few weeks asking if I would be open to working out a plan for their employees.”
It may be a little bit before we know for sure whether tutoring for an employee’s kids catches on as an employment benefit. But it could. And if it does, that could spread quality education interventions to more families as well as open a rich market for education designers and providers.