This week the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a new
Kids Count report focused on the alarming rise in the number of unconnected
youth. The report, Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult
Connections to Opportunity, shows nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young
adults are neither in school nor in the workforce, and employment among young
people is at the lowest level since the 1950’s. Many of these young
people, ranging from ages 16 to 24, face numerous obstacles. These youth are
encountering greater competition from older workers for increasingly scarce
entry-level jobs, especially in light of the recession. They often don’t
graduate from high school on time or are not prepared for college, further decreasing their employment options. And a number of them contend with hurdles beyond their control, such as growing up in poverty, having few working adults as role models, attending low-performing schools and living with a single parent.
The report emphasizes the need to provide multiple, flexible pathways to success for disconnected young people and to find ways to reengage high school dropouts. Youth and Work advocates creating opportunities for youth in school or other public systems that allow them to gain early job experience through such avenues as community service, internships and summer and part-time work. Its major recommendations include: a national youth employment strategy that streamlines systems and makes financial aid, funding and other support services more accessible and flexible; aligning resources within communities and among public and private funders to create collaborative efforts to support youth; exploring new ways to create jobs through social enterprises such as Goodwill and microenterprises, with the support of public and private investors; and employer-sponsored earn-and-learn programs that foster the talent and skills that businesses require — and develop the types of employees they need.