Today’s children are the future workforce. With more than 85 percent of the brain developing before the age of five, investing in the development of children in their early years is essential to improve their success in school, at work and as citizens in their community. It is a key ingredient for economic development.
To help shed light on this issue, LEAD Hampton Roads’ class of 2010, working with the Hampton Roads Partnership, coordinated the First Annual Regional Education Summit event to bring business and education leaders together to promote early childhood development. The Summit was held on June 9 at 8a.m. at Christopher Newport University. Keynote speaker Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson spoke to 150 of the community’s business leaders and educators. Regional business involvement and support is sought because of the critical need for early childhood education and the readiness of children to succeed in school and what that means for the future workforce of businesses in the region.
Secretary Robinson discussed programs, such as Smart Beginnings and the Head Start program that are making a difference. He communicated five key points to further early childhood education:
• Read, talk and play to children every day.
• Tell lawmakers it’s hard to find quality childcare.
• Become an advocate of childhood education programs.
• Increase funding
• Be a champion for children.
Children from low-income and at-risk families are behind those who are not, putting them at a disadvantage early in life. To help, Secretary Robinson asked the crowd to donate time to read to children, adopt a school, and to tell lawmakers how important it is to have public-private partnerships.
Attendees also heard from Dr. Robert Leber, Director of Education and Workforce Development for Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. He stressed the need for early childhood programs and said, “There is a need for a continuous supply of trainable employees. Employers need a thinking workforce.” Northrop Grumman partners with local schools and Leber said that it’s crucial for business leaders to become active on workforce investment boards in Hampton Roads.
LEAD Hampton Roads is a program of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to the First Regional Education Summit sponsors: Cox Communications (Gold) and Northrop Grumman (Gold); Damuth Trane (Silver), DeVry University (Silver) and Jo-Kell, Inc. (Silver); Inside Business (Media) and The Virginian-Pilot (Media).