Skill Development is a Lifelong Process

Growing the economy, creating jobs and increasing incomes can only happen with investments in Nebraska’s greatest asset–its people. Present job positions depend upon diverse skill sets and require individuals to collaborate with others outside of their field. This creates an increasing need for individuals with specialized expertise and the social skills to communicate their knowledge with others.

 

Early Childhood Investments
are Talent Pipeline Investments

The foundation for skills required to fill available jobs is largely built in the early years. The brain connections forming for cognitive and character skills grow rapidly during this period. A window of opportunity for dramatic growth in executive functioning skills develops.

The brain needs the strong cognitive foundation developed in the first three years so that a child is able to think through processes and begin to communicate these processes.

In the brain, the ability to hold onto and work with information, focus thinking, filter distractions and switch gears is like an airport having a highly effective air traffic control system managing the arrival and departure of planes on multiple runways. Scientists refer to these capacities as executive function and self-regulation–a set of skills that relies on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility and self-control. A child is not born with these skills.  A child develops these skills over time. The full range of abilities continues to grow and mature through the teen years and into early adulthood. To ensure that a child develops these capacities, it’s helpful to understand how the quality of the interactions and experiences that parents provide with support from their community which either strengthens or undermines these emerging skills. 

 
  Source: C.A. Nelson (2000). Credit: Center on the Developing Child

Source: C.A. Nelson (2000). Credit: Center on the Developing Child


 
Executive Functioning Skills are built most rapidly in the first five years but continue to be built into your 20s.

Narrow the Achievement Gap

Gaps in knowledge and ability between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers begin before kindergarten, tend to persist throughout life, and are difficult and costly to close. Taking a proactive approach to skill development through investments in quality early childhood programs is more effective and economically efficient than trying to close the gap later on.

Evidence from quality early childhood programs show advances in the life skills of young children—particularly those most at risk. 

  • 90% of at-risk children in Nebraska’s Sixpence program are developmentally on-track with their more advantaged peers.
  • Children in the North Carolina Abecedarian Project had higher cognitive test scores from their toddler years through age 21.  
  • 29% of children at risk participating in the Chicago Parent-Child Center program were more likely to graduate from high school than their peers.

Being able to focus, hold, and work with information in mind, filter distractions, and switch gears is like having an air traffic control system at a busy airport to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways.