Comprehensive Youth Employment Strategy
Ensure the Connection of Youth and Young Adults to Short and Long-term Job Creation
Economists project that job growth will lag behind the economic recovery and it will take time for the economy to create jobs in sufficient numbers to significantly reduce the unemployment rate. There will be fierce competition for those jobs and low income, unskilled youth and young adults will not fare well in that competition. We have learned from previous recoveries that while the rising tide of a recovery raises most boats -young people, especially young black males, are often left behind.
Conscious policies must be implemented to ensure the same thing does not happen in this recovery. Public sector job creation programs for young people create more net jobs per slot than for any other age group. Without purposeful efforts to connect unemployed youth to jobs, paid work experience, education, and training to prepare them for openings in the new economy, those youth will most likely spend the better part of a decade with few opportunities to work, gain skills, or earn family sustaining wages.
Put Youth To Work: Subsidized Jobs, Job Training, and Education Supports
Minority youth and young adults are often the first and last to feel the impacts of a recession. Youth must be a focus of job creation and retraining strategies being considered by the Administration and Congress. CLASP and the Campaign for Youth continue to recommend an investment of at least $3 billion to create jobs and paid work experience opportunities for disconnected youth and young adults. Funding should be directed to communities with high youth unemployment and to low income youth (ages 16-24) with limited education and jobs skills. Focused both on job creation and paid work experience, these investments would:
- Create jobs and paid training opportunities in the public, private, and non-profit sectors that are part of a community revitalization effort, including: infrastructure repair and improvement, conservation and stewardship of public lands, construction and retrofitting of affordable housing and public facilities, provision of human services including health care services; and/or jobs that are part of a structured internship or on-the-job training (OJT), apprenticeship, or formal pipeline to occupation in a growing sector. All such jobs should identify the set of skills, beyond basic work skills, that will be transferable to other jobs in the economy.
- Provide education and training supports to all engaged youth. Work alone won't prepare youth and young adults for good jobs in today's labor market or tomorrow's. For youth without high school diplomas, participation in jobs programs should include opportunities to complete their secondary education, earning either GED's or high school diplomas. For youth with high school diplomas, training should involve learning marketable skills and include bridge programs to help youth access postsecondary education and training.
- Have a community-based support infrastructure to provide supervision and quality control, mentoring, job and career counseling, leadership development, access to support services, and transition support.
- Have structured business and labor union involvement to provide guidance in paid work experience, OJT, and apprenticeships to link to and prepare youth for existing jobs that have labor market value.
Build on Existing Strength, Experience, and Capacity
Our youth development system already has the experience and substantial underutilized capacity to mount such an effort and take it to scale. Those who have been successful in working with traditionally disconnected youth populations know what works.
- The Youth Workforce System under the Workforce investment Act (WIA) has demonstrated its ability to quickly create jobs for disadvantaged youth. With $1.2 billion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, WIA provided 355,320 youth with jobs and work experience through the summer and year-round jobs initiative. We should build on this success, increase funding for WIA, and provide year-round and summer jobs for in-school and out-of-school youth up to age 24. We also need to adjust the eligibility requirements for out-of-school youth so that more qualify for WIA youth programs and can get a job by demonstrating that they are out-of-school and have not earned a high school diploma, regardless of income.
- The Youth Opportunity Program taught us that with enough targeted financial and human capital, efforts can realize benefits for youth in a relatively short period of time and increase opportunity for youth in affected communities. More investment would not only put income in the pockets of youth and allow them to support themselves and their families, but would arm them with the skills necessary to compete in the labor market.
- The YouthBuild program authorized under WIA as a program of the Department of Labor (DOL)-Employment Training Administration that attracts highly disadvantaged young adults, especially young men, and provides full education and training while students receive a stipend for building and retrofitting affordable housing in their own communities, demonstrated that it could also ramp up quickly with ARRA funds. It could expand still further by funding existing grantees to accept more of the thousands of applicants they are currently turning away for lack of funds, and by funding organizational applicants already in the DOL pipeline. A study of YouthBuild programs by Professor Mark Cohen of Vanderbilt University reported that every dollar spent on a court-involved YouthBuild student returned at least $10.90 in value to society.
- National networks of programs for disconnected youth, including service and conservation corps and transitional jobs programs, provide work experience to tens of thousands youth every year and could quickly provide jobs to thousands more if given the resources to do so. These approaches provide youth with a blend of high quality work experience, education, and the opportunity to engage in service and give back to their communities. There are limited opportunities for disadvantaged youth to develop these skills. However, when given the opportunity, young people excel. In a comprehensive study of national youth corps programs, researchers found that young people who join a Corps experience significant employment and earnings gains and reduction in arrests and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
Andrew Sum, Joseph McLaughlin, Ishwar Khatiwada, et al., Out With the Young and In With the Old: U.S. Labor Markets 2000-2008 and the Case for An Immediate Jobs Creation Program for Teens and Young Adults, Center for Labor Market Studies, 2008, http://www.clms.neu.edu/publication/documents/job_creation_for_teens_and_young_adults.pdf
JoAnn Jastrzab, John Blomquist, Julie Masker, and Larry Orr, Youth Corps: Promising Strategies for Young People and Their Communities, Abt Associates, Inc. Studies in Workforce Development and Income Security, 1997, 16-21, http://www.nascc.org/images/pdfs/abtreport.pdf