12/16/2011 - American businesses need employees who are well prepared, but they are not getting them. State reports indicate that thousands of jobs remain unfilled because of gaps between the skills employers require and those workers possess. For example, research shows that, as of 2004, 20 percent of U.S. workers were functionally illiterate. Further, a 2009 study found that 75 percent of people ages 17 to 24 could not qualify for U.S. military service because they could not meet the physical, behavioral or educational standards standards similar to those many industries use in hiring.
Most strategies and reform initiatives to develop and improve the future workforce focus on the middle school or high school years, but achievement gaps are evident farearlier. Disadvantaged children can start kindergarten as much as 18 months behind their peers. The majority of fourth or eighth graders are not proficient in both math and reading in any state. Most children who read well below grade level at the end of third grade will not graduate from high school.
This failing workforce pipeline can be repaired, but we have to start far earlier than middle or even elementary school. The foundation of many skills needed for 21st-century jobs is established in the first five years of life. Children born with low birthweight and with fewer parental resources have poorer health, are more likely to struggle in school, and have lower earnings as adults. Yet, just as the root of these challenges lies in the earliest years, so does the solution. Proven home visiting programs, which pair at-risk families with trained professionals who provide vital information and support, can help build the workforce our nation needs.
Read the full brief, The Business Case for Home Visiting.
As part of Pew Center on the States' series looking at the value of home visiting programs, former Procter & Gamble CEO John Pepper explains how high-quality programs can play a vital role in helping the United States as well as businesses stay competitive in the future. By matching new and expectant parents with trained professionals such as nurses and social workers, the voluntary programs prepare children for success.
To learn more, visit http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/homevisiting