America is falling behind. We have lost our ranking as first in the world in the percentage of young people with a college degree. We know that lower levels of education correspond with higher unemployment rates and more reliance on public assistance. In addition, we know that with nearly 25 percent of our own students failing to graduate from high school, many employers are hiring candidates from other states, leaving our own students behind in opportunities, wages and hope for the future.
By Pat Hamill and Brad Busse
POSTED: 13/13/2010 01:00 AM MSTAmerica is falling behind. We have lost our ranking as first in the world in the percentage of young people with a college degree. We know that lower levels of education correspond with higher unemployment rates and more reliance on public assistance. In addition, we know that with nearly 25 percent of our own students failing to graduate from high school, many employers are hiring candidates from other states, leaving our own students behind in opportunities, wages and hope for the future.
As business leaders, these sobering statistics mean the companies we have built may not be able to find the educated workers needed to meet market demands and navigate tomorrow’s technology, innovation and competition challenges.
Now is the time to start dealing with the reality of what today’s statistics mean for tomorrow’s business environment. It is in the best interest of Colorado businesses and our communities to think about the workforce we will need in the future.
There already are encouraging signs that Colorado business leaders are aware of this looming problem and are taking steps to address it. One of those beacons is Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC), a coalition of business leaders, nonprofits and foundations.
EPIC sees new investments in early childhood as the solution to tomorrow’s workforce challenges because the barriers that keep our children from graduating with college degrees first appear long before a child enters the school system.
In fact, research shows that 80 percent of brain development happens before age 5. During this time of rapid brain growth, the environment of a child has great influence on the development of cognitive, social and emotional skills. At least half of the achievement gap found in the school years already exists when a child starts kindergarten. Quality child care, education, health and parenting all play critical roles in ensuring that kids are successful in elementary school and beyond.
Colorado business leaders need to realize that ensuring that our youngest children are healthy and educated will mean that Colorado has a better workforce in the future.
Now there’s a resource available for Colorado businesses that want to invest in and support early childhood development: EPIC’s Early Childhood Development Toolkit for Employers. This new website (www.EPICemployertoolkit.org) is designed to provide the business sector with resources and knowledge to understand how an investment in early childhood development not only positively impacts Colorado’s children but also benefits businesses.
Extensive research has proven that businesses that support their employees’ child care, education, health and parenting needs can increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and turnover, and attract high-quality employees.
The toolkitincludes evaluation tools so businesses can assess their current policies and practices; practical suggestions for how businesses can better support their employees’ access to early childhood services; and tips on how to maximize tax benefits available to employers.
Another promising effort for Colorado’s future workforce is Colorado’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission. This bipartisan, public-private partnership of 35 state leaders and decision-makers, established in statute and appointed by the governor, exists to ensure and advance outcomes for young children. The commission brings business and philanthropic leaders, early childhood service providers and public educators to the table to help see it it that children develop to their full potential
EPIC and the commission are creating a roadmap to the future. By capitalizing on the expertise of all the stakeholders involved, the groups will help advance early childhood in Colorado and, ultimately, improve the workforce in our state.
Brad Busse and Pat Hamill serve on EPIC’s CEO Roundtable and are members of Colorado’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission. Also contributing was Greg Anton, who is also on the commission.