Please welcome our new Healthy Monadnock Organizational Champion, Impact Monadnock. This is a guest post from Marj Droppa, PhD, Project Director, Early Childhood Development Initiative, Impact Monadnock, LLC.
Workforce development has become a key business issue and how investing in the future workforce – our young children and their families – is vital to the Monadnock Region’s long-term economic success and wellbeing.
Overwhelming evidence shows that early childhood is a critical time for building the intellectual and character skills needed for the future workforce. Business leaders have a vested interest in fostering an environment that helps young children become the future employees, customers and community members the Monadnock Region needs to thrive. Early childhood investment lays the foundation for a future workforce that has the STEM skills and other qualities that businesses require to remain competitive: critical thinking, teamwork, communication and creativity.
As in business, investing early in the workforce pipeline ensures the best outcomes and savings. According to the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, investing just $6,692 in quality pre-Kindergarten for at-risk children substantially improves outcomes in education levels, home ownership and salary while reducing negative behaviors such as substance abuse and crime. The net result is a lifetime societal benefit of up to $69,937 – a Return on Investment of greater than 10:1 (Reynolds, Temple, Robertson & Mann, 2002). What this research shows is that to remain competitive, Monadnock businesses and policymakers must help raise academic expectations and performance early in life thus ensuring a well-educated, team-ready and job-ready workforce.
Other bottom-line benefits relate to employees with families. Corporate support for child care and family-friendly workplace policies have proven to increase worker retention and productivity as well as reduce stress. Beyond these quantitative benefits, companies have other reasons to publicly support early childhood investment. Their actions can:
- Enhance the company’s image
- Help attract more customers
- Encourage prospective employees to relocate to the area
- Enable the company to expand
- Improve employee retention rates and morale
Recent data from the New Hampshire Kids Count 2015 Data Book underscores the urgency of this work. In Cheshire County, 73% of 4th graders are proficient in reading (lower than the state average) and only 75% of 4th graders are proficient in math. This is compounded by deep-rooted social challenges in our community including the fact that in Cheshire County 14.3% of children live in poverty (compared to a state average of 11.1%); 6.4 children per thousand suffer from abuse or maltreatment (state average is 3.5 children per thousand) and 1 of every 3 households are headed by a single parent, higher than the state average. Additionally, New Hampshire has no state-funded pre-K program. This means approximately 90% of the state’s 3-and4-year olds are not enrolled in any type of pre-school programs and yet by age 3, a child’s brain is already 80% developed (National Institute for Early Education Research, 2014). Educational attainment, child welfare and economic opportunity tend to cycle together. If children are safe at home and successful in school, they tend to be more successful in work and life (Community Well-Being in the Monadnock Region Report, 2012).
On October 14th Impact Monadnock in partnership with the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce will host a Regional Business Summit on “Workforce Development: Investing in the Future Workforce”. The local non-profit organization supporting early childhood development in the Monadnock Region, has joined with the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, Monadnock United Way, Hannah Grimes, and Keene State College to inspire and equip business people and policymakers to take action to improve the region’s economy by investing early in the workforce pipeline. At the Oct. 14th summit from 7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. at the Alumni Center, Keene State College, participants will hear from keynote speakers on ways to get involved and why. Speakers include Lisa Ventriss, President and Chief Spokesperson of Vermont Business Roundtable and Matt Mowry, Editor of Business NH Magazine. This effort is supported by ReadyNation, a national non-profit organization that works to strengthen business through better policies for children and youth.