Building a Path from Early Childhood Education to Good Paying Jobs for Californians

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Welder in mask surrounded by sparks

(Photo: WSDOT/Flickr)

CA FWD’s policy work groups are created in consultation with members of the California Stewardship Network (CSN) through a process that identifies the issues that matter most to civic leaders throughout the state. Every year, each work group identifies a set of priorities that are critical to advancing the mission of the group and of CA FWD. These priorities are presented during a working session at the California Economic Summit and integrated into the Roadmap to Shared Prosperity, charting an agenda for collective action to ensure California’s economy works for everyone.

Too many Californians are not employed in good paying jobs. In some sectors, employers cannot find enough qualified workers in critical industries; in others, many jobs do not offer wages and benefits that can sustain individuals and families.

The answer to these problems does not lie solely at the young adult or post-secondary level. To truly move the needle on student and labor market outcomes, California must have a strong and cohesive lifelong learning system that creates seamless transitions between segments (early childhood, K-12, post-secondary, and workforce), and engages industry throughout.

Disparities in early childhood education across California’s regions are readily apparent when viewed with CA FWD’s California Dream Index. The Inland Empire and Central Valley lag the rest of the state in the percentage of children aged 3 and 4 enrolled in early childhood education at 42 and 44 percent respectively. The Bay Area and Sierra Nevada regions led the state at 63 percent in 2020.

Overall, the statewide average was 48 percent of children enrolled in early childhood education. The Index, which tracks 10 indicators of economic mobility, was recently updated with newer data that shows promising trends and areas of concern for California’s regions.

At the 2022 California Economic Summit, participants will consider how to target historic investments in the state’s education and workforce systems to address short-term needs while building the political will to fundamentally transform the system into one that is better connected and more equitable.

The Education and Workforce work group is building on its previous work to develop an agenda for leveraging state policy and regional practice to achieve a better aligned and more cohesive lifelong learning system that:

  1. Prepares children for TK-12 education by ensuring a solid start through high-quality and affordable early child care and education;
  2. Ensures students’ college and career readiness during TK-12 education;
  3. Supports the unique needs of adult learners;
  4. Improves systems to support better outcomes for individuals who experience structural barriers to education and career success; and
  5. Helps employers, education institutions, and regional intermediary organizations collaborate to improve the outcomes of individuals served.

As part of the group’s pre-Summit listening sessions, key themes emerged centered around points of connectivity that need to be strengthened including access to early childhood care and a lack of incentives for different segments and institutions to collaborate.

Learn more about the 2022 California Economic Summit happening on October 27-28 in Bakersfield. The agenda includes working sessions, regional tours, lively receptions and more. Join us to help shape recommendations for shared prosperity plan for all regions.


Jennifer Lovett

All stories by: Jennifer Lovett