Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of participating in a special conference, Transforming Tomorrow’s Workforce Today: A First in the Early Learning Nation. The conference focused on early learning in relation to workforce development. I have been volunteering and working towards change in the education realm in New Hampshire for more than 15 years and while there is still more that needs to be done, I was happy to see so many education, business, early childhood, community leaders, and political leaders such as Senator Shaheen and former Secretary of State Clinton, come together in support of this important initiative. I believe the proper investment in the zero to four years takes care of most, if not all, longer term issues.
One of the speakers at the conference, Ellen Galinsky, of the Families and Work Institute, wrote a book titled “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.” I picked-up a copy and her book is most certainly on-par with the abilities every child needs to become a successful adult. I have paraphrased these seven life skills below.
1 – Focus and Self Control: In today’s world, we are faced with distractions 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A child must learn to avoid these distractions to help them pay attention, remember rules, and free-up their mind to think at their own pace and in their own way.
2 – Perspective Taking: It is important for children to be empathetic and be able to anticipate and react appropriately to their peers. This includes their friends, teachers, and parents.
3 – Communicating: This skill is what many educators and employers feel is most absent today. This skill involves more than simply understanding language, speaking, reading, and writing, it is to determine what one wants to communicate and knowing how this communication might be understood by others.
4 – Making Connections: Instead of simply knowing information, an individual who is able to use this information well will be more successful. This skill involves the ability to interpret information, notice connections between information, and sort this information into categories.
5 – Critical Thinking: This skill involves one’s ability to question the validity of information and a hunger to understand why and how certain things happen
6 – Taking on Challenges: We live in a challenging world. When a child learns to see a challenge as an opportunity and not a hindrance, this will prepare them to be more successful in life.
7 – Self-Directed, Engaged Learning: Our potential is realized through learning and the world is constantly changing. If a child is able to be present and enjoys learning, it will greatly benefit them.
As a father, I have seen my four children navigate through life, and I am proud that they are all successful, thriving adults. As I mentioned above, more needs to be done to move the needle in the right direction for the early years which will improve high school graduation rates, and ensure New Hampshire’s future workforce is prepared and able to meet the staffing needs of our state.