Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

To build a better workforce, start at the beginning by building better early education and care programs.

That’s the argument made by Jay Gonzalez and JD Chesloff in a guest column they wrote for the MetroWest Daily News.

“The business community has engaged in different initiatives over time to support the work of universities, community colleges, workforce training programs, vocational technical schools and K-12 public schools to improve the quality and supply of our workforce,” they write. “However, there has not been sufficient focus on the point in the workforce development pipeline that can have the biggest impact – the very beginning.

“That is starting to change.”

Gonzalez is president and CEO of CeltiCare Health. Chesloff is the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. They are both former chairs of the Board of the state’s Department of Early Education and Care. And they are both members of the Business Advisory Group on Early Childhood Education that House Speaker Robert DeLeo called for in the spring.

“Surveys have shown that 69 percent of employers across Massachusetts have difficulty finding people qualified to fill open positions,” Gonzalez and Chesloff explain. “This means our businesses are not achieving their full potential. It also means that people looking for jobs are missing out on opportunities that exist because they aren’t qualified for them.”

Impressed by the research on early learning and the high return on the investment of tax dollars, more business leaders are calling for better programs because they give “our children a better shot at succeeding in school and being qualified for good job opportunities that exist.”

In addition, early education allows “parents who might otherwise have to stay home with the kids the flexibility to participate in the workforce and achieve financial self-sufficiency…”

Gonzalez and Chesloff conclude:

“The recent engagement of the business community on this issue is encouraging, but more is needed. Improving the quality of our workforce is a business imperative, and improving the quality of early childhood education is critical to achieving that result.”