By Lane Tomey | Career Development Coordinator, Apex Friendship High School
The NC State University Institute for Emerging Issues addressed a lack of preschool education as its 2017 “emerging issue” and convened a group of stakeholders to research, discuss, and recommend solutions. At “Kidonomics,” the 2018 Emerging Issues Forum held in early February, panels spanned from “crib to career” including Governor Roy Cooper, early childhood experts, and representatives from large North Carolina employers like SAS, Bank of America, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Most of us are aware of the “skills gap” concern facing many employers in the United States. According to the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from leading U.S. companies, there is a lack of individuals with fundamental “employability skills,” such as the ability to use basic math, communicate effectively, read technical manuals, work successfully in teams, and participate in complex problem-solving. Seventy-five percent of responding CEOs indicated that fundamental math, reading, and writing skills are important, but 50% of them are having difficulty finding qualified applicants with these skills.
So, what does this mean for the high school students whom I serve in my role as a Career Development Coordinator, where I strive to prepare students for the rigors and challenges of a global marketplace? What if the foundation for that preparedness happens before a student enters kindergarten?
According to the Institute for Emerging Issues Blue Ribbon Commission, 90% of brain growth happens from age 0-5 and these early childhood experiences lay the foundation for school success. The NC Early Childhood Foundation’s research says that 3rd grade reading proficiency predicts future career readiness. Students who are not reading proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of high school. And as for the determinate for 3rd grade reading proficiency…it is based on access to high quality preschool programs. Currently, less than 25% of NC children are enrolled in pre-K.
Any solution to this issue must include collaboration between preschool and high school educators. Early childhood educators can benefit from understanding the skills that will be developed in high school to make students college and career ready. At the same time, high school educators can learn new strategies for how to evaluate and develop the foundation reading, writing, and math skills that may be underdeveloped due to lack of access to preschool education.