By NEESEY PAYNE
Where does the workforce pipeline begin? The answer: A child’s early developmental years.
With a $93,750 grant from the Virginia Early Childhood Education Foundation, Smart Beginnings New River Valley will continue to help bridge the gap between early childhood development and a productive workforce. The grant will impact more than 1,000 children across the New River Valley over the next 18 months.
Smart Beginnings New River Valley is a coalition of non-profits, public agencies and businesses with a vision to provide “every family in the New River Valley with everything they need to help their children start school healthy and ready to learn.”
According to statistics on the Smart Beginnings website, in Virginia 1-in-8 children lack the skill set required to start school. Smart Beginnings believes, “investment in high quality early experiences can bring greater returns later,” such as increased revenues from a more productive workforce.
“We need to make sure every child is healthy and ready to learn on their first day of kindergarten,” said Del. Joseph Yost (R-House 12th District) in a press release. “This public/private investment in Smart Beginnings New River Valley is a down payment on our future workforce and community prosperity. As delegate of this region, I believe our economic prosperity will benefit from investing in our children’s school readiness from the very beginning.”
The grant will support a number of readiness programs and services it provides, such as expansion of its Star Quality Program.
The program helps parents and guardians find high quality child care programs throughout Virginia. Star Quality participants are rated on a variety of factors, including:
• Quality of staff
• Staff interactions with children
• Number of children in each classroom or family child care program
• Activities and materials offered
• The program’s ability to ready a child for school
The goal of the program is to ensure families can be confident their “child is in good hands” during critical developmental years of his or her life.
“When young children experience high-quality, enriching early learning opportunities from birth to age 5, they are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed,” said David Moore, regional coordinator of Smart Beginnings New River Valley in a press release.
Another initiative of Smart Beginnings is to work to identify developmental delays with children through partnering with childhood service providers. By doing this, developmental challenges can be addressed so children can start school healthy and ready to learn.
“I’m proud of the coalition. I think our leadership council is amazing. They are supportive in getting institutional players on board, smart, professional and passionate. I feel privileged to work with these folks,” said Moore.
Since 2009, Smart Beginnings New River Valley has been serving Pulaski, Floyd, Giles and Montgomery counties, as well as the city of Radford. Virginia Tech’s Office of Sponsored Programs serves as a fiscal agent for the organization’s New River Valley coalition. For information on Smart Beginnings, visit www.smartbeginnings.org, or call 230-6914.