In 2014 America’s Edge is focusing on proven and promising programs for children and youth with the highest returns on investment for businesses – programs that target children from the age of birth to five, and programs that help high school students develop the skills to succeed in both career and post-secondary education. These two priorities improve children’s readiness for college and career – starting them with a strong foundation in social and learning skills and helping them later in high school to understand how their education applies to the real world. These two priorities have proven and promising outcomes for business by attracting qualified workers in the short-term and by providing our businesses with the workers they need in the long-term.
“High-quality early education helps cultivate the skills our future workforce needs by giving young children a solid foundation in critical early social skills and academic skills necessary for success in the future workplace.” -Julia Christian, Executive Director, CHAMPS (Capital Hill’s Chamber of Commerce), Washington, D.C.
Employers need to hire people who have the hard skills – reading, writing and math – and the increasingly vital soft skills – communication, collaboration and critical thinking. Research confirms the most important factor in developing these skills is quality early care and education programs – and the earlier we start, the better the outcomes.
Investing in Our Youngest Children
America’s Edge supports quality early child care and education programs. Research shows that investments in quality early learning programs have impressive economic outcomes, both in the short- and long-term. Quality early learning programs have been shown to immediately generate about $2 for every $1 dollar invested, through the sale of local goods and services, providing an immediate benefit to communities and making early learning an important economic sector. Extensive research also demonstrates that high-quality early learning programs can help children attain impressive results in the long-term. Results from three rigorously studied early learning programs in which at-risk children participated in the programs were followed into adulthood, demonstrate the significant outcomes of these quality programs.
Children who participate in these programs can:
- Increase pre-math skills by as much as 21%;
- Increase pre-reading skills by as much as 52% – 74% for low-income children;
- Cut special education placements by as much as 43% ;
- Increase graduation rates by as much as 44%; and
- Increase median earnings by as much as 36%.
Investing in High School Students
Innovative high school models are designed to equip students with the knowledge and abilities businesses now require. Innovative high school education models integrate career relevance instruction with rigorous academic curricula, standards, assessments and accountability systems. They often include a focus on “deeper learning skills,” which include a mastery of core academic content, and the increasingly important soft skills - communication, collaboration and critical thinking. Promising results from a few examples of these programs indicate that specific models have a positive earnings impact for youth and can help develop the skills employers need to compete in a global economy.
For example, “Career Academies” have demonstrated increased skill levels, graduation rates, and enrollment in post-secondary education and training. Furthermore, these students had a significant, sustained increase in earnings and overall months and hours of employment; and were twice as likely to be working in the computer, engineering or media technology sector eight years after graduation as students left out. These schools:
- Integrate rigorous academics and career relevance instruction
- Provide internships and real work experience for youth so they learn what is expected in the workplace;
- Teach through project-based learning to build collaboration skills;
- Incorporate significant oral and written communication components- both individuals and as teams; and
- Serve youth from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
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