By Caroline Martin
VTCRI executive director addresses state business community on how healthy early brain development affects education, work force issues
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Executive Director Michael Friedlander recently addressed statewide business leaders about the impact of brain development during the early years of an individual’s life, and about how healthy early development figures into the creation of a talented, productive workforce for the future.
The executive briefing was attended by more than 150 business and education leaders from across the Commonwealth at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. The meeting centered on the “Economics of Early Childhood: Smart Beginnings for Virginia’s Workforce Pipeline,” and reinforced the business case for early education as a foundation for success in learning, career development, and regional economic vitality.
In his keynote address, Friedlander, who is also the Virginia Tech Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology, talked about the science of how the brain develops in the first years of life, with a particular focus on the roles of experience and early interventions. He emphasized the biological underpinnings of rules for effective learning, including a technique called spaced repetition, which incorporates increasing intervals of time to review of previously learned material; reward reinforcement, attention, and social interaction, even when children are engaged in electronic media activities.
He closed with an example from Warren Bickel, a professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, whose research illustrates the importance of putting value in future benefits, and not sacrificing the future for immediate rewards.
In addition to Friedlander’s keynote, addresses were delivered by Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam, who talked about the importance of early childhood health care and education and the commitment of the Governor’s administration to invest strategically in those programs throughout the Commonwealth.
In addition, Gary Thomson, managing partner for Dixon Hughes Goodman’s Mid- Atlantic Region, who described the role of business and partnership with government for investing in programs that provide all children with the opportunity to learn, based on the information that science provides.
The Virginia Chamber Foundation and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation hosted the event.