50%. That’s the number of millennials in the United States that failed to demonstrate proficient literacy in 2015. Considering millennials make up the largest generation in the country’s workforce, that’s a scary number. It’s no wonder job creators are battling a growing skills gap. If half of the largest talent pool can’t perform basic job functions and employers can’t fill open jobs, how are businesses expected to compete in the modern global economy? The answer is they won’t.
Understanding that early literacy is a key indicator of achievement later in life, both in the attainment of higher education and career advancement, CEOs of the Business Roundtable (BRT) came together to develop an action plan to boost third-grade reading proficiency. “Why Reading Matters and What to Do About It” outlines six recommendations to elected officials as part of a “policy blueprint” to improve early literacy, while also highlighting nine ways in which CEOs can make a difference in advancing reading programs. Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS, describes the report and early literacy’s impact on the skills gap in this video. Some of the policy recommendations include expanding access to high-quality pre-k programs, equipping educators in grades pre-k—grade three with the resources necessary to produce strong readers and requiring systematic interventions for struggling readers.
Think the statistic in the first paragraph is startling? Only one in three American students currently demonstrate reading proficiency in the fourth and eighth grade and at the current rate of progress, it’ll take 30 years before half of fourth graders read proficiently. There’s no doubt that closing the skills gap begins with improving early literacy in our students. North Carolina must prioritize early literacy improvements in every corner of the state, which is why this #WorkReadyWednesday we are highlighting the BRT report. Transforming North Carolina’s workforce through early literacy will also be a major focus at tomorrow’s Conference on Education, as Dale Jenkins, CEO of Medical Mutual Insurance Company of North Carolina, Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T North Carolina and Jim Hansen, regional president, Eastern Carolinas of PNC Bank, discuss policies to improve third grade reading proficiency and how business can play a critical role in supporting early education. As always, please join the conversation online using #WorkReadyWednesday and I hope to see you at tomorrow’s conference.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber