Preparing our Future Workforce

Read Time: 3 minutes
Teaching Strategies
August 7, 2019

This week we’ve invited Jonah Stuart, Chief Policy & Government Relations Officer, to discuss the impact of early childhood education on workforce readiness. We look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below!

Hello, I’m Jonah!

In addition to my work at Teaching Strategies, I’m also the father of two (soon to be three!) young girls. My role as “dad” impacts the work I do every day as I see firsthand the importance of early childhood education. When I think about the future for my daughters, it’s hard to imagine what types of careers they might pursue and what skills they’ll need to be successful. Naturally, I want them to leave school able to read and write and to add and subtract, but I also want them to feel confident navigating difficult situations, to understand how to solve complex problems, to establish positive relationships, and to know how to effectively communicate with others. I find that in my own career, it’s often these so-called “soft skills” that are most important.

That’s why the whole-child approach to early learning is so critical. In a recent episode of CED’s “Sustaining Capitalism” podcast, Kai-leé Berke, Teaching Strategies Vice Board Chair and former CEO, described a whole-child approach as “transitioning away from a focus on narrowly defining academic achievement to one that incorporates a broader view of the knowledge, skills, and abilities that all children need to develop for long-term success in school and in life.” By redefining “education” to include things like social–emotional and cognitive development, we’re not only helping children build the skills they need to participate in society, we’re also laying a foundation to support future learning and success, as these are the skills employers increasingly say are necessary to excel in the workforce of today and tomorrow.

We often view “hard skills” vs. “soft skills” as an either-or dichotomy, believing that we need to focus on one at the expense of the other. But, as Kai-leé points out, this is a false dichotomy. We need both! Soft skills like self-regulation and executive function have a profound impact on a child’s ability to successfully develop hard skills. How can we expect children to learn how to read and write, for example, if they’re unable to regulate their behavior? By devaluing children’s social–emotional development, we’re hampering their ability to excel in the areas long perceived to be more academically rigorous. The two can and should go hand in hand. They’re part of the whole.

Across the country we’re seeing this perception shift as policymakers, employers, and educators increasingly advocate for and invest in a whole-child approach. For example, earlier this year, the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development put out new recommendations that “seek to accelerate efforts in states and local communities by strengthening six broad categories that impact student outcomes,” encouraging a more wholistic definition of student success.

You can listen to Kai-leé’s complete interview here:

Take a listen and tell us what you think in the comments below. As a professional, what skills do you find most important in your workplace?