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There has been much conversation in business and government about the future of the American work force. Ready Nation Council for A Strong America endorses pre-Kindergarten education because the foundation of adult character skills is built in early childhood.

Those social-emotional skills known as soft skills involve managing emotions and impulses, solving problems, taking initiative, being flexible, communicating in teams, perseverance and resilience and empathy.

Data from the National Survey of Children’s Health show that many young children in Pennsylvania experience adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) (including poverty, divorce, death and violence) which hinder emotional growth and later success in the workforce.

A Wall Street Journal survey of 900 business executives, reported that 93 percent hold character skills as important, or more so, than technical skills and 89 percent reported difficulties in finding employees with these abilities.

Speaking out on the importance of investing in early learning programs is a governor-appointed group of about 70 Pennsylvania business leaders with members in NEPA and Lehigh Valley. The PA Early Learning Investment Commission (PA - ELIC) is co-chaired by Pete Danchak, president of PNC Bank.

Studies show that 3-to 4-years- old who participate in high-quality pre-kindergarten perform better in school, graduate at higher rates and earn more throughout their working lives compared to peers that do not have access to early learning programs, Danchak said.

“Statistics show kids are ready to learn, are more apt to stay in school, out of drugs, go to college and be productive citizens if they have high-quality early childhood education. And a huge payback is that for every $1 spent in keeping kids out of the system, $17 returns to society.

This is an issue dear to employers everywhere who are intent on building a healthy workforce of “employees who play well with others.”

“I’ll tell you why those social-emotional skills matter to my business, said Jack Brennan, chairman emeritus, former CEO and senior advisor of Vanguard. “Above all else, successful financial professionals must have a genuine sense of empathy that enables them to understand each client’s individual needs and goals. They must also work well with all of the other people who are instrumental to meeting these goals.”

Since 2003, PNC has supported early learning through “Grow Up Great,” a $350 million program dedicated to helping prepare America’s youngest learners for great things in school –- and life.

In 2003 the company focused its philanthropy on early learning. “It’s heavily data driven and its benefits affect all of us,” he said. The program involves advocacy; financial partnerships with organizations PNC serves, for example Head Start; Education: since PNC began the program in 2004, PNC Grow Up Great has distributed more than $121 million in grants to help young children prepare for school by focusing on readiness in vocabulary development, math, science, financial education and the arts; and volunteerism: PNC employees who volunteer get paid time off.

“It’s important to invest in kids, Danchak said. Write to the governor, your state senator and representative.”

This is especially important now since the Pennsylvania house has voted to move the budget bill to the senate with cuts to the governor’s $75 million boost to pre-Kindergarten programs.

Learn about the early education efforts of PNC at and Ready Nation Council For A Strong America at

— Christine