Growing a World-Class Workforce
early Learning is key to strengthening Nebraska's talent pipeline
Strengthening Nebraska's place in the global economy depends greatly on our ability to cultivate a skilled workforce and generate economic opportunity. While our state is well known for the professional caliber of its people, business-friendly environment and overall quality of life, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry reports that employers are increasingly challenged to find enough skilled, job-ready employees for available positions. To maintain Nebraska's competitive edge, we have to think differently about how to cultivate a world-class talent pool for tomorrow's jobs, maximize the productivity of our existing workforce, and adopt a cohesive vision for our long-term growth. Strategic investments in our youngest, most vulnerable children address some of the most pressing economic development challenges facing Nebraska today.
stem education begins early
It's important that Nebraska educate its up-and-coming workforce to be ready to respond to changes in technology and industry to stay relevant in tomorrow's job market. While much attention has been given to STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) education for middle- and high-school students, these efforts often overlook opportunities to engage young learners in their earliest years. High-quality early care and learning environments encourage young children to exercise and develop their natural impulses for exploration, experimentation and problem solving. Now is the time for Nebraska's business leaders, policymakers and educators to consider how stimulating, supportive early learning experiences can strengthen our state's STEM-literate future workforce.
The Hard Truth About "Soft" skills
Though STEM education is an important aspect of Nebraska's talent pipeline, our state will have to do more than produce a technically proficient workforce to meet the demands of tomorrow's job market. In fact, many employers report that they struggle to find workers who demonstrate fundamental skills, qualities and behaviors beyond an industry-specific or technical knowledge base.
To thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace, aspiring workers need to exhibit leadership, communication, collaboration, negotiation, adaptability, task focus, self-management and solid work ethic. These are assets that are extendable and exportable into nearly any aspect of business and industry. However, they do not suddenly emerge as young people prepare to enter the job market after their secondary, post-secondary or vocational education. Rather, they are rooted in the same positive developmental experiences that build healthy brain architecture in the earliest years of life.
Maximizing our current workforce
Along with housing, transportation, information technology and energy, early care and learning programs are a key part of our local and statewide economic infrastructure. Communities that cannot offer accessible, reliable and high-quality child care opportunities are at a grave disadvantage in holding on to their existing talent base or attracting new workers for available jobs.
This not only limits local potential for economic growth, but also directly affects the bottom line of Nebraska's employers. Insufficient and unreliable child care options inflate business costs related to employee turnover and training, and can reduce workplace performance overall. Nationally, child care-related absences have been calculated to cost U.S. businesses as much as $4 billion in lost productivity per year.