Investing in High-Quality Early Programs Today Builds the Workforce of Tomorrow
The connection between smart investments in early childhood and the workforce that businesses need in D.C. and beyond
I’m Gregory McCarthy, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement for the World Champion Washington Nationals. I am also a member of ReadyNation and proud to be one of its more than 2,700 business leaders across the country. The ReadyNation mission is to help build a stronger workforce and economy by promoting public policies and programs that prepare children to succeed.
This is an important issue to me personally, especially in these trying times. I’m not only a member of the DC business community, but I also see the significant impact that the COVID-19 health emergency is having on parents and children throughout the region as they try to navigate the current situation.
While everyone is coping with the ongoing crisis, we also need to keep our eye on the type of city that we want to live in. Once we’ve overcome our current health emergency and our lives return to normal, we’ll need to focus on rebuilding the long-term strength of our economy. In order to do that, we need to make sure we’re investing in programs that can create the workforce we’ll need locally, regionally, and nationally, whether we’re talking about a tech company, a manufacturing firm, or a baseball team.
While we are grappling with the challenges created by COVID-19, we know we’ll be back, along with the rest of the D.C. workforce. And, in the meantime, we can’t afford to lose our system of child care that enables people at all levels to work.
Getting the diverse, skilled workforce we need doesn’t happen overnight. Its creation is a process that takes years, and needs to begin as early as possible.
We know that proven investments made early in a child’s life can pay dividends in the future, especially when it comes to investing in children as the future workforce that will drive success in the global marketplace. To that end, we need to make sure that we prioritize early childhood education programs to help create a system that will set up our youngest learners for lifelong success.
The period from birth to age three is a unique time of brain development. During children’s first few years, their brains develop rapidly, building a foundation for later learning. Early childhood brain development demands stimulation, enrichment, and nurturing interaction with caring adults. The neural connections built in the early years support mental, social, and emotional functioning for life. Having high-quality education and care during that period of early brain development is critical.
Moreover, research confirms that children from economically struggling families who participate in high-quality early education are more likely than their peers who were not enrolled in such settings to be ready for kindergarten, graduate high school, obtain a four-year degree, and enter the workforce with the skills they need to compete successfully. Access to affordable, high-quality child care not only gives young children a better start in life, but it also gives parents peace of mind. It frees them up to be more focused and productive employees while they are at work.
The 2019 ReadyNation national child care report was the first of its kind to focus on the economic costs of failing to address the care needs of infants and toddlers. I was alarmed to learn that the infant-toddler child care crisis adversely impacts the national economy to the tune of $57 billion every year.
Because of the lack of affordable, high-quality child care, many parents must miss work, show up distracted, or drop out of the labor market to care for their children. Those sadly necessary steps result in the lost productivity, tax revenue, and earnings that make up that $57 billion figure. This financial burden is shouldered by employers, parents, and taxpayers.
This child care crisis is not just a national problem, but should also be of great concern to the District right here at home. There are currently more than 26,500 infants and toddlers under age 3 in the District, but only about 7,600 licensed child care slots. And that’s before the pandemic, which could put many smaller programs on the edge of bankruptcy. This crisis is showing us that our early educators are brave, dedicated, necessary - and also vulnerable. We can’t afford to lose any more - now or in the future.
This combination of scarcity and expense causes some parents to choose between providing care for their children, participating in our workforce, or purchasing other goods and services. These are hard choices—choices that slow our economic growth.
Smart investments in early childhood education, care and development will provide a valuable return for today’s workforce productivity and tomorrow’s human capital potential.
Note: this blog post is provided by the author in an individual capacity, not as a company representation. Title/company is provided for informational purposes only.