In Focus: Building the Capacity of Communities

Feb 26, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

New Report Shows Significance of Summer Youth Employment

By Kisha Bird and Clarence Okoh

For many young people, early work experience is a touchstone on the path to continuous gainful employment. A new JP Morgan Chase report, Expanding Economic Opportunity for Youth through Summer Jobs, highlights the benefits of strategic investments in summer employment for low-income young people and suggests strategies for connecting more youth to these opportunities, which help them build skills and earn credentials to improve long-term economic success.

Far too many youth are economically insecure. Children and young adults experience the highest levels of poverty in the United States (21.1 percent and 19.7 percent respectively). Among them, children and young adults of color are disproportionately affected. Young adults, particularly youth of color, also experience the highest levels of unemployment. Along with these disparities, summer employment has declined 37 percent for teens over the last twenty years. In 2015, just 34 percent of teens had access to these opportunities.

According to research, teens who work are 86 percent more likely to be employed in the next year and older youth are almost 100 percent more likely to be employed if they worked more than 40 weeks in the previous year. Summer employment can also contribute to reduced involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice system as well as improved school attendance and educational outcomes, especially for those at risk of dropping out.

The report identifies four key findings that could help us design sustainable, systemic solutions that expand economic opportunity through summer employment, including:

  • Boosting skills-building for youth through scaling up models that emphasize year-round employment and connections to career education training and work experiences and other technical training opportunities.
  • Expanding and strengthening private sector engagement.
  • Expanding and tailoring services to youth who experience unique barriers to employment including youth of color and opportunity youth.  
  • Improving coordination with local workforce systems.

There are many challenges to connecting youth to quality summer work experiences, including funding, having adequate systems and infrastructure, and business and industry engagement. However, as highlighted in the report, many communities are pioneering innovative solutions that help serve young people. Through leadership and sustained investment from elected officials, the private sector, policymakers at all levels of government, and—most importantly—youth themselves, we can realize this pathway to economic opportunity.

Mar 4, 2010  |  PERMALINK »

It's Time to Give Youth More Opportunities to Succeed

Community youth leaders hold a Capitol Hill briefing to discuss Youth Opportunities with congressional staffers, federal agency representatives and policy makers

Not so long ago, Kendrick Campbell, Sharon Jackson, Special Sanders and Madeline Vasquez weren’t sure where they were going in life.  In many ways, the odds were stacked against them – they were among the more than five million young people ages 16-24 in the U.S. living in high poverty communities who knew they wanted more from life and wanted to do better, but didn’t know where to begin.  Fortunately, each of them lived in a community that had applied for and received a grant as part of a bold and innovative federal program to provide comprehensive services and support to keep in-school youth on track and reengage youth disconnected from education and employment.

Instituted in 2000, under the Workforce Investment Act, the Youth Opportunity Grants program provided $5 billion to 36 communities across the United States to develop and implement youth service delivery systems.  Federal funding for the program, which served more than 90,000 young people, ended in 2005.  Today on Capitol Hill, community leaders, program directors and graduates of those systems discussed the successes and lessons learned through the Youth Opportunity program and urged Congress to reinvest in youth services targeted to reconnect high school “dropouts” to education and workforce options.

"In the first half of the past decade, thousands of disconnected youth nationwide were able to continue or complete their education and enter the workforce thanks to Youth Opportunity programming," said Linda Harris, Director of Youth Policy for the Center for Law and Social Policy.  "Unfortunately, funding was discontinued in 2005 despite the increasingly difficult economic environment for our nation's youth - the worst since before World War II.  Reinvesting in a Youth Opportunity approach and the Campaign for Youth's job strategies would reverse these trends and ensure that we have the skilled, competitive workforce necessary to compete in the 21st century global economy."

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Apr 8, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Celebrating Native American Youth: Leadership and Resiliency

By Andrew Mulinge

Recently, the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth held its fourth annual Champions for Change celebration. The event recognized the extraordinary work of resilient young men and women in Native American, Alaskan native, and Native Hawaiian communities across the country.

The young leaders’ inspiring work is a constructive response to the hardships and tragedies they have experienced. They discussed channeling their challenges and pain into innovative programs that address suicide, sexual abuse, cultural preservation, and mentorship for their peers. These programs are critically important; too often, communities perpetuate trauma instead of supporting those who experience it.

Chronic trauma and adversity are key public health issues with major implications for the wellbeing of youth—especially those in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Barriers to positive youth development  include violence, abuse, and neglect, as well as chronic stressors like unemployment, racism, lack of adequate health care, and social isolation. Chronic trauma and adversity in childhood can interrupt normal brain development; this has long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.

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