November 1, 2023
Barbara Den Herder
President/CEO, Sioux Center Chamber of Commerce
Senior Advisor, Education Pathways, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Chair and President, PNC Foundation
Caitlin Codella Low
Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Today’s youth are tomorrow’s workforce — yet, there’s been a continued lack of investment in early education nationwide. Now, with the U.S. workforce in crisis, many industries are seeking ways to improve students' education in ways that prepare them for success.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2023 Business Solves event, three industry leaders — Barbara Den Herder, president/CEO of Sioux Center Chamber of Commerce, Bill Tucker, senior advisor of Education Pathways at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Sally McCrady, chair and president of PNC Foundation — discussed the importance of investing in education at all levels to establish a strong workforce for our future.
A Lack of Investment in Students Will Hold Our Nation Back
Nationwide, employers are grappling with organizational challenges stemming from workforce shortages and limited resources. Despite educators' efforts to ready students for the job market, Tucker pointed out a prevalent misperception: the idea that one must choose between pursuing post-secondary education and having a thriving career.
Reinforcing this viewpoint, Den Herder cited a statistic underscoring the disconnect between business owners and the emerging workforce.
“[Though] 90% of educators thought they were educating students to meet the needs of the workforce, 90% of businesses said the people they were hiring did not have the skills they needed,” Den Herder said. “That disconnect is huge, so building that bridge is really important.”
Challenges also stem from limited government support — even though over 20 years of research prove the benefits of investing in high-quality early education.
“For every $1 invested in high-quality early childhood education, society saves up to $13 in the long term,” McCrady said. “These are savings because of less grade repetition, less use of the criminal justice system, [and] less use of the social welfare benefits system.”
This lack of investment in childcare and resources is costing our economy $122 billion per year, according to McCrady.
Efforts Are in Place to Help Build a New Talent Pipeline
Across the country, initiatives are underway to bolster a dwindling workforce, starting with students.
Den Herder highlighted some of her organization’s programs, including the teacher-focused Classroom to Career program, and the Your Future at Work program, where students receive hands-on experience in the industries of their choosing and explore potential career options.
Other efforts include career-connected learning opportunities that schools are implementing to help students understand the relevancy of their courses in their future careers.
“We're seeing a lot of communities that are thinking about the courses that students take in high school,” Tucker said. “They're integrating them with dual credit or dual enrollment from a community college or an institute of higher education, and they're constructing them so that they are not just random courses… they can be construed onto pathways.”