Screenshot: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Report

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is making the business case for high-quality early education.

“… America is facing an unprecedented workforce crisis: a large and growing shortage of skilled workers,” the foundation says in a newly released report – “Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow: The Business Case for High-Quality Childcare.”

“From Wall Street to Main Street, the world of work is changing—and our strategies for developing tomorrow’s workforce must change with it,” the report says.

Katharine B. Stevens, a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute who wrote the report, says in a statement, “Achievement gaps are emerging much earlier than we previously understood. The costs of children arriving in kindergarten not ready to learn are enormously high.”

Part of the problem: “…we’ve underestimated the importance of the earliest years of life… while childcare is a necessary support for working parents, it also has a critical impact on children during the most consequential phase of human development.”

That’s why high-quality child care is so importation. It’s a two-generation approach, and it’s good for business.

“Today’s workers need childcare. Tomorrow’s workers are in childcare. Childcare providers generate jobs and local economic activity.”

Unfortunately: “…the childcare market is functioning poorly: Too many families don’t have access to the high-quality care they need.”

Business can make “a pivotal difference” by advocating for high-quality child care. One example:

“In Minnesota, a coalition of business leaders developed, funded, and launched a pilot initiative, operated from 2006 to 2011, to test and refine an innovative, market-based program providing vouchers and information to low- income families that enable them to access high-quality childcare. Based on its initial demonstrated success, the program, called Early Learning Scholarships, has since been expanded and is now funded by the state.”

Another example:

“In early 2017, Vermont business leaders formed the Vermont Early Childhood Business Council, a coalition of employers and business leaders committed to advancing high-quality, affordable childcare as crucial to the state’s current and future economic health and prosperity.”

The report also shares 10 things business can do “to advance access to high-quality childcare:”

1 Join forces

“Join or build an early childhood business…. Business leaders make powerful public messengers”

2 Set the Policy Agenda

“Include childcare in your local business organization’s legislative agenda. Sign onto or create a policy statement in support of high-quality childcare.”

3 Make the Business Case

“Help business colleagues and policymakers understand the economic benefits that high-quality childcare brings to states and local communities.”

4 Speak Out for Children

“through speaking engagements, op-eds, and blogs” or “Launch a media campaign with local partners…”

5 Contribute Through Philanthropy

“…support early care and learning programs for low-income children;” give to scholarship programs; and donate materials such books and art supplies.

6 Lead by Example

Adopt in-house policies that support employees who have young children. “Implement a childcare benefits program and consider establishing an on-site childcare center.”

7 Share Your Business Expertise

“Use your organization’s skills to support the business side of childcare.”

8 Initiate Local Innovation

“Create a team of local business, community, and childcare leaders to explore local challenges and opportunities, identify new partnerships, and develop innovative, community-wide strategies for improving access to and delivery of high-quality childcare.”

9 Lay the Groundwork for Systemic Change

“Work with state or local partners to begin developing a fact base on the existing childcare policy landscape.”

10 Make a Site Visit

“There’s nothing like seeing something in action for getting a new perspective on what’s working, what can be improved, and how. Children love visitors, and childcare providers will welcome the interest in and appreciation for their work.”

The report concludes:

“Childcare also offers a unique opportunity for business to lead transformative public-sector innovation… It’s crucial, little-trodden territory that’s ripe for strong leadership.”