Larry Jensen: Early Childhood Education is America’s next “Moon Mission”
President and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Adviser Partners on how early education affects the workforce
Larry Jensen is the President and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Adviser Partners, a large commercial real estate company, lifelong resident of Memphis, TN, and a member of ReadyNation. In his 35-year career, he thinks the lack of early childhood education today in America is a national crisis. Here’s why:
“Today, if a young person walks into our office and they cannot read, write, or have some critical thinking skills, they can’t be employed. Entry level jobs requires computer skills now, anywhere. Almost anything that they’re doing requires a level of skills,” Jensen explains.
If we don’t look at this seriously and think about early childhood education as our moon mission for the next 10 years, then we miss the opportunity to save a generation of children.
He adds, “In Memphis, we have 16,000 open jobs right now. And our problem is not employment. Our problem is having qualified people who enter those jobs.”
The reason? If you don’t get a kid early childhood education and they don’t learn to read by the third grade, they can’t read to learn thereafter. “There are kids in our country who have never held a book in their hands,” Jensen said. This leads to a serious skills gap in the American workforce.
That’s why Jensen has helped lead People First Partnership, which is a partnership between local government, business, and the Memphis community that over the past 15 years has led to a vibrant early education sector.
So locally, Jensen is finding solutions, but he also thinks that the federal government needs to be involved. “We need bipartisan support for high quality early learning. The bottom line is this that quality early learning is about our nation’s bottom line, not just economics, but our productivity, our security, and our opportunity to ensure all our children are prepared to succeed.” He supports continuation of preschool development grants and the reauthorization of Head Start in 2017.