In Focus

Jan 23, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

New Report from JP Morgan Chase Highlights the Importance of Summer Youth Employment

By Kisha Bird

Unemployment is down and job growth is getting stronger as the economy recovers from the Great Recession.  However, entering the workforce remains challenging for U.S. teenagers and young adults, who have experienced steep drops in employment. Youth and young people of color have been disproportionately affected.

A new report from JPMorgan Chase & Co. details the persistent problem of youth unemployment and potential solutions. “Building Skills Through Summer Jobs: Lessons from the Field,” is part of JP Morgan Chase’s five-year, $250 million New Skills at Work initiative to address the mismatch between employer needs and the skills of job seekers. The report highlights how summer youth employment benefits local communities, economies, families, and youth. It also offers a set of effective program elements and promising practices from the field to strengthen summer youth employment programs and connect them to broader economic and workforce development agendas.

Key Facts:

  • The youth summer employment rate has declined 40 percent over the past 12 years.
  • In summer 2013, teens with a family income of less than $20,000 were nearly 20 percent less likely to be employed than teens with a family income of $60,000 or more.  
  • In 2013, White male teens in high-income families were five times more likely to be employed than their Black peers in low-income families.

Summer employment is a critical way for teens to gain early work experience, which is proven to increase their annual earnings through age 26. This is especially important for young people who are detached from school but seeking to reconnect.  Youth employment also boosts local economies because the dollars they earn are usually spent in the community. Yet federal investment in youth employment, in particular summer jobs, has dramatically declined over the past two decades.

The report features three key ways to strengthen summer youth employment programs:

  • Strengthen infrastructure and connections among programs;
  • Deepen private sector engagement and create pipelines to high demand and growth industries and sectors; and
  • Bring a skills focus to summer youth employment.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) also offers new opportunities to leverage federal funding. WIOA focuses on the most vulnerable workers—low-income adults and youth who have limited skills, lack work experience, and face other barriers to economic success. It also requires that at least 75 percent of available state-wide funds and 75 percent of funds available to local areas be spent on workforce investment services for out-of-school youth. This is an increase from 30 percent under the previous law. The redirected funding gives states and local communities dedicated resources to implement effective employment, education, and youth development strategies for the most vulnerable young people in highly distressed communities. WIOA also requires that at least 20 percent of Youth formula funds be spent on paid and unpaid work experiences that incorporate academic and occupational education for both out-of-school and in-school youth.

By 2025, 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some postsecondary education, training, or credential. Leveraging opportunities through WIOA and increased public and private investments in youth employment and training will help to ensure all youth can be successful and economically secure.

 “What a summer job means to me is motivation. It motivates you to go out and explore. It helps you step outside your comfort zone. You’ll meet people and adapt to new environments. It’s a good step to the career you are looking into.”

- Alexis, a participant in the St. Louis Youth Jobs program, Summer 2014.

Dec 19, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

New Guidance on Education for Youth in Juvenile Justice Settings

By Andrea Barnes

On December 8th, the U.S. Departments of Education (DOE) and Justice (DOJ) jointly released a guidance package on meeting the educational needs of youth in juvenile justice settings. The package reinforces current civil rights law and regulations for secondary education, offers promising practices for secure care facilities, and clarifies eligibility for Pell grants. It comes in the wake of accumulating research suggesting that incarceration neither meets the needs of youth nor necessarily improves the safety of their communities. Furthermore, advocates and DOJ have filed numerous complaints and class-action lawsuits pertaining to the substandard education of youth in custody.

In Guiding Principles for Providing High-Quality Education in Juvenile Justice Secure Care Settings, DOE and DOJ identify five guiding principles, paying particular attention to youth with disabilities and English language learners:

  1. Facilities should make education a priority and provide behavioral and social support services for youth that need them.
  2. There should be adequate funding to support appropriate educational services and supports.
  3. Facilities should recruit, employ, and retain qualified education staff.
  4. Education programs should adopt rigorous and relevant curricula that meet state standards and prepare youth for college and career.
  5. Facilities should create partnerships and formal policies with other child-serving systems to ensure smooth reentry into communities.

DOE also released guidance clarifying Pell grant eligibility of youth in juvenile justice settings. Youth who are incarcerated in locations that are not Federal or State penal institutions are eligible for Federal Pell grants. These facilities where youth are considered eligible include:

  • Jails, penitentiaries, and correctional facilities under the jurisdiction of local or county governments.
  • Juvenile justice facilities, which include all public or private residential facilities that are operated for the care and rehabilitation of youth. These facilities are not considered to be Federal or State penal institutions, regardless of whether the Federal government or a State operates or has jurisdiction over the facility.

Youth in the juvenile justice system, in particular youth committed long-term, are the most at risk for low academic achievement when they return to their communities. The more than 60,000 youth in over 2,500 juvenile justice facilities across the country are entitled to the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to continue their secondary education when they are released, or advance to postsecondary education and join the workforce. Policymakers, juvenile justice agencies, education systems, and juvenile justice facilities can use DOE and DOJ’s guidance as a gauge to ensure they are adequately serving the youth in their care.

Nov 26, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Commentary: Choosing Who We Are As Americans—Reflections on Ferguson

By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant 

"Oh beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties,
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on Thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!"

After the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, Jr., the skies don't seem so spacious. They seem clouded, grey, oppressive. The majestic and spacious skies, this place of abundant fruit and grain that we sing about...America, the beautiful... isn't feeling so beautiful today.

Today, it feels as though once again, America has pulled back the curtain and revealed for the entire world a different land, one that is deeply flawed. The awful, haunting melody of death has again revealed the unequal treatment America metes out to a segment of its "brotherhood." From sea to shining sea, it is painfully evident that brotherhood between men – indeed, all people – of all races is a falsehood. And for black people in America, the repeated inconsistency between the words we are taught to sing about this nation and the reality of the lived black experience is simply too much to take. 

Each day, we as Americans make choices – choices about how we live our personal lives, how we treat others, and about what is fair and just. These choices are made based on both explicit and implicit biases that we have learned over time. Research reveals that human choices are more largely influenced by our unconscious or implicit biases about “the other.” Thus, our attitudes and actions toward people who are different from us in some significant way such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or disability are driven by these biases. Implicit bias is derived from many things, including our experiences in early life, media exposure, hearsay, or passive observation of the world around us.

Those who are in positions of influence or power also choose to make decisions that significantly impact the opportunities and future success of “the other.” In the case of Ferguson, “the other” is black people, and the family of Michael Brown, Jr. From what we have read and seen, this young man’s life was tragically cut short because Darren Wilson did not relate well to Michael’s culture, his lived experiences, his body language, or his story. Michael was “the other.” And so Darren Wilson acted with haste and force. That was his unfortunate choice.

At CLASP, and in my daily work with national and community leaders, I see how policy, too, all comes down to choices.   In the interest of a more solid and free nation, Americans can choose to destroy the institutional racism and policy structures that stand in the way of equity for people of color. We can create a better society through sound policies at the federal, state, and local levels. We can open up child care to more children and their families. We can reduce disproportionate minority contact in our criminal justice system. We can reform child support laws to keep non-custodial parents connected to their children and improve their economic circumstances. We can give all low-income children of color an equitable education through better financing and stronger local education policy. We can smooth the pathway to postsecondary education for low-income, first generation students by restructuring financial aid and providing support for persistence in school. We can transform communities of color riddled by concentrated poverty and crime by creating solid, sustainable opportunities for work.

Without these positive choices, America stands to lose the contributions and talent of far too many of its youth, not only through dramatic tragedies but through the day-to-day erosion of belief and hope.  Soon, fully half of young people under 18 will be people of color – underlining the tragedy for the nation if our heedless and biased choices throw away that potential.  To me, this future makes no sense:  How many more black men and boys must die before we tackle the issue of bias head-on in our police departments? How many more black families must struggle in poverty? How many more black children must get an inferior education? How many more black men must be incarcerated more punitively? How many more black institutions and communities must crumble before we name and address the deeply rooted bias that undergirds decision-making in our nation and prevents progress?

I am but one voice, but I have hope – hope that we will dig up and uproot these biases and choose to take the next crucial steps to fix this nation, starting with the inequity of poverty.  I am encouraged by the work of heroes such as those who served on the United States Sentencing Commission, who courageously changed drug sentencing policies and applied them retroactively. Three-fourths of those impacted by this decision are black and Hispanic offenders who received more punitive sentences than whites. This choice took bravery and integrity. And it provides an inspiring model as we create solutions to bias.

It’s our choice.

Until then, I sing…

“Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.”

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