During a news conference at the Happy Face Preschool in Raleigh, the group cited an America’s Edge report that shows investments in early care and education are generating immediate sales of local goods and services, creating jobs and aiding in long-term economic security in North Carolina.
Participating in the event were: Harvey Schmitt, President and CEO, Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce; Tony Marshall, President and CEO, Innovative Systems Group Inc.; Rick McNeel; Chairman, President and CEO, LORD Corporation;
According to the report, for every $1 invested in early care and education in the state, a total of $1.91 is generated in sales of goods and services from local businesses, providing a major boost to North Carolina businesses. That strong economic boost is higher than investments in other sectors, including transportation, manufacturing, and construction.
“The findings of this report make it clear that early learning is a very viable economic sector in our state’s economy,” said Brenda Berg, Founder of Scandinavian Child, LLC. “Continuing these investments is an essential strategy for supporting North Carolina’s businesses and economy in such a difficult climate.”
The report also showed that the early care and education sector employs more than 49,000 people in North Carolina, generating $1.7 billion annually.
“There is no better return on investment than quality early childhood education. An investment in our children is an investment in our future,” said Tony Marshall, President and CEO of Innovative Systems Group, Inc.
The report also documents the long-term economic impact of quality early learning programs. According to the study, the global marketplace will require employees with advanced hard skills in math, reading and writing as well as the increasingly important “soft” skills such as communication, collaboration and critical thinking.
The report cites research showing children who participate in quality early learning programs perform better in math and reading; develop the social and emotional skills that transform into the soft communication skills; have higher graduation rates; enter the workforce with higher skill levels; and earn more as adults. But these results are most pronounced in programs that share quality components.
Machelle Sanders, Vice President of Manufacturing and General Manager of Biogen Idec, noted that, by 2018, two-thirds of all North Carolina jobs will require some form of formal education beyond high school.
“While skill and education requirements for jobs are rising - especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math or STEM jobs, too many young people are not getting the training and education they need and that is costing our businesses and our economy,” Sanders said. "The research is extensive that quality early learning lays the foundations upon which the "hard skills" needed for these jobs can be built."
Rick McNeel, President and CEO of Lord Corporation, echoed the views of all the business leaders in saying that quality early care and education programs are a proven way to address the skills gap in North Carolina over the long term.
“The 4-year-olds of today are the workforce of tomorrow. Every child who enters the workforce with the skills American businesses need will help our nation and our communities stay competitive in an increasingly challenging global marketplace,”
John Metcalf, President of Workforce Systems Associates, noted the importance of building the foundations for the skills a workforce needs with high-quality early learning, stating, “If we are going to get kids ready to enter school so that they succeed in school and later in college and career, it is imperative that we start early.”
Harvey Schmitt, President and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, said the group is urging Governor-Elect McCrory and the incoming state legislature to prioritize North Carolina’s investment in quality early learning and restore funding that has been cut over the last few years.
The business leaders also called on North Carolina’s Congressional delegation, including Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, who both serve on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to prioritize funding for federal early learning programs, like Head Start, Early Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, while also working to improve the quality of the programs.
“We must protect programs that give back to our businesses today and will continue to give back in the long run,” Schmitt said.
Media Contact: David Carrier