To prepare our future workforce for success, we have to start in early childhood. Family Forward NC’s focus on workplace policies that impact young children and their families is rooted in research on brain development and future success. During children’s earliest years, their experiences are built into their bodies—shaping the brain’s architecture and creating the foundation for future learning and health. In other words, everything a child experiences from birth impacts that child’s ability to fulfill his or her potential.Footnote # 1
The early years are so defining that by the time a child turns eight, his or her third-grade reading outcomes can predict future academic achievement and career success. Decades of research have established what children need to build strong brains—health and development on track from birth, supportive and supported families and communities, and high-quality birth-through-age eight learning environments with regular attendance.
“American business depends on a strong workforce, now and in the future, to compete and succeed globally. But America is facing an unprecedented workforce crisis: a large and growing shortage of skilled workers. One root of this problem is that we’ve underestimated the importance of the earliest years of life.”
— US Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the need for family-friendly policies that support children now and in the future.
The child care industry has been particularly affected, which has an immediate and long-term impact on child health and well-being. Across North Carolina, 34 percent of child are programs were closed in June 2020 because of the COVID-19 crisis. And about a third of NC child care centers responding to a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children said they would not be able to reopen after a closure of more than two weeks without public investment.
On top of that, North Carolina and the country are facing a growing skills gap.
An estimated 67% of jobs in NC require some post-secondary education. Currently, only 45.9 percent of North Carolinians meet this requirement.
“The foundation for school, career and life success is largely determined through the development of cognitive and character skills beginning in children’s earliest years.”
—Nobel Laureate Economist, Professor James J. Heckman
Currently, the majority of NC children are not meeting key predictors of future academic success and higher education attainment.
- North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “Shared Measures of Success to put North Carolina Children on a Pathway to Grade Level Reading.” March 2018. https://files.buildthefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Pathways-Measures-Book.pdf. Return to footnote #1 referrer
- https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/. Return to footnote #2 referrer
- North Carolina Department of Commerce. July 11, 2018. https://www.nccommerce.com/news/press-releases/survey-nc-employers-supports-nc-job-ready-initiative-match-worker-skills. Return to footnote #3 referrer
- North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr-2019/North-Carolina-CCCR-2019.pdf. Return to footnote #4 referrer