If Not Now, Then When?

Jun 09, 2010

By Kisha Bird 

At a recent "Working for Change" public policy forum on Capitol Hill, youth experts and advocates, including CLASP and the National Youth Employment Coalition, focused on the urgent need for Congress to intervene and aid disconnected youth. The forum is a monthly meeting of the Community Service Society of New York and the Coalition for Human Needs.

The recent recession has exacerbated the unemployment crisis among the nation's youth, and lawmakers should act now to help this vulnerable population.

Young people ages 16 to 24 account for almost one-third of the unemployed in the United States.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only 25 percent of teens between the ages of 16 to 19 are employed. For black teens that rate is only 16 percent.

Unfortunately, low  employment rates for those with limited education and youth of color is nothing new. Even before the economic downturn,  millions of young people not connected to school or the labor market faced enormous barriers to gaining employment as a result of educational deficiencies and lack of skills and training opportunities. For decades federal workforce investments have decreased, in spite of increased joblessness for undereducated and unskilled young people.  The April 2010 BLS report shows that  only 38 percent of high school dropouts ages 16 to 24 are employed. This vulnerable population is often forgotten and could face a life-long recession if nothing is done now to address their needs.

Congress should act quickly to address our nation's youth unemployment crisis.  Solutions must include comprehensive legislation with short and long term investments at sufficient scale.  During this congressional session, multiple bills have been introduced to address this important issue, and 75 members have signed on to some piece of youth-employment related legislation.  However, multiple stand-alone bills are unlikely to gain enough momentum to move through Congress.  We must harness the best provisions from multiple bills to create a comprehensive bill for young people, with a focus on disconnected youth and young adults that includes needs-directed funding, employment opportunities, dropout recovery and re-engagement, employer incentives and investment in research, capacity building, professional development, and training of the field.

View presentations from CLASP and the National Youth Employment Coalition to learn more about the state of youth employment, key legislative provisions necessary to connect youth in high poverty communities and those with limited education and skills to the workforce, and featured bills Congress is considering to address the needs of disconnected youth. 



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