In Focus: Pathways to Reconnection

Aug 14, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Postsecondary Success Strategies for Opportunity Youth

By Andrea Barnes

In today’s economy, postsecondary credentials are essential to securing good jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage.  Whether it’s through college, vocational training, or a technical school, most youth want to obtain a postsecondary education. But for youth who have dropped out of high school, numerous barriers make it difficult or impossible for them to re-enter the education system. And even if they do obtain a high school diploma or GED, accessing and completing a postsecondary program is extremely challenging.  Youth may struggle to apply for financial aid, understand college culture, or secure counseling and academic support.  In response, many cities and states are now developing and implementing solutions that break down barriers and help youth achieve their dreams.

At a Congressional briefing last month, leaders of the Campaign for Youth, a coalition of national organizations, advocated for programs and policies to support postsecondary success for opportunity youth. Speakers included Terry Grobe (Jobs for the Future), Alan Melchior (Brandeis University), Scott Emerick (YouthBuild USA), Mala Thakur (National Youth Employment Coalition), Capri St. Vil (The Corps Network), H. Leigh Toney (Miami-Dade College), Alex Nock (Penn Hill Group), and Jennifer Brown Lerner (American Youth Policy Forum). Tyler Wilson (The Corps Network) moderated the briefing.

Jobs for the Future presented its Back on Track Through College model, aimed at creating more pathways for youth to achieve postsecondary credits and credentials. The framework is focused on three highly impactful interventions:

  1. Enriched preparation integrates high-quality college-ready instruction with strong academic and social supports.
  2. Postsecondary bridging builds college-ready skills and provides informed transition counseling.
  3. Support to completion offers appropriate supports to ensure postsecondary persistence and success, especially in the critical first year of postsecondary education.

Back on Track Through College has been implemented at 34 community-based sites in 17 states. Early data show promising results. An evaluation by the the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University found that, across the three years of the pilot at National Youth Employment Coalition and YouthBuild sites, 73 percent of the students who entered college persisted two semesters or more. The Back on Track model is especially effective for court-involved youth, who must overcome social stigma, lack of access to resources, lack of employment opportunities, and unsupportive probation and parole requirements.

The key to the Back on Track model is partnership among secondary schools, postsecondary institutions, and community-based organizations.  Each entity brings something different and valuable to the partnership. Strategic secondary-postsecondary partnerships create academic acceleration, while community-based organizations (such as YouthBuild and NYEC-affiliated schools and programs) provide academic and social supports, as well as youth leadership and development opportunities.

Taking the Back on Track model to scale and expanding it to other communities will require policy change at all levels of government. At the federal level, Jobs for the Future makes the following recommendations:

  • The High School Graduation Initiative within the ESEA should be modified to focus more intentionally on proven dropout recovery pathways.
  • Congress should invest in research and development around new school and program models to aid disconnected youth.
  • Within the Department of Education, School Improvement Grants and the High School Graduation Initiative should require further community collaboration around dropout prevention and recovery.
  • Reinstate the Disconnected Youth Opportunity Tax Credit, which came out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and expired in 2011. It provided a tax incentive for employers to hire disconnected youth.

Jan 17, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

The High Cost of Youth Unemployment

By Zane Jennings and Kisha Bird

Since the Great Recession, young adults have struggled to connect with and thrive in the American workforce. A new study by Young Invincibles, “In This Together,” demonstrates the dire situation young adults face in today’s labor market a and the economic consequences of youth unemployment to our nation.

Since 2007, workers ages 18 to 34 (known as “Millennials)” have faced double digit unemployment rates. And the youngest American workers, ages 16 to 24, have fared the worst, with unemployment rates exceeding twice the national average. In contrast to prior economic downturns, in which young adult unemployment returned to pre-recession levels within 5 years, recovery from the Great Recession is taking significantly longer.

Continued high unemployment has caused many young adults to withdraw completely from the workforce. Recent research estimates 5.8 million young adults are neither working nor in school. Ages 16 through 24 are critical development years, as young people prepare to take on adult responsibilities. Having early work experience and attachment to the labor market is essential to establishing work history and credibility and is a predictor of future wages and employment mobility.

According to the study, young adults’ economic struggles, anxiety, and “deferment or denial of dreams” have major consequences both for them personally and for the national economy. Through loss of tax revenue and safety net expenditures, federal and state governments lose almost $9 billion annually due to Millennial unemployment. That’s roughly $4,100 in forgone tax revenue and public benefits for each unemployed person between the ages of 18 and 24, and $9,875 for each unemployed person between 25 and 34.

Tackling the issue of youth unemployment is not only the right thing to do—it is a necessity. As we continue to right our sluggish economy and address long-term challenges, such as the federal budget deficit, special attention must be paid to the broader economic implications of this demographic in the workforce.

Young Invincibles identifies several strategies to reconnect young adults to the workforce and improve their skills, including:

  • Investing in national service programs, such as AmeriCorps. Expanding national service will enable young adults to make money and garner work experience while contributing to communities in need.
  • Reinstating the Youth Opportunity Grant. Although grant funding ended in 2005, an evaluation of the program showed that Youth Opportunity created pathways to education, training, jobs, and internships for thousands of youth in high-poverty communities.
  • Expanding the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program. RA provides training in vital technical skills, as well as wages for workers. The RA program is also an incredible investment for the federal government and employers.  For every dollar invested, the federal government gains $50 in return. Employers also many reap benefits including a more technical and well-trained workforce.
  • Establishing a “Career Internship” standard by offering long-term internships with school-approved employers that provide wages and/or school credit. The recommendation also includes a targeted component to allow for the participation of out-of-school youth.
  • Providing more opportunities for Millennial workers. Their greatest strengths—their technology skills and entrepreneurial, collaborative, and creative approaches to problem solving—are essential assets to employers.

CLASP has long advocated for a diverse set of policies and interventions to connect the most vulnerable youth (including those without a secondary credential and youth of color) to work, education, and ultimately opportunity; this includes building on research and lessons learned from the Youth Opportunity Grant Program.

As “In This Together” shows, young adult unemployment is an important issue with widespread consequences for continued inaction.  It is imperative that we act, and act quickly.

Read the full report and access state data>>

Learn about CLASP youth policy recommendations >>>

Aug 28, 2013  |  PERMALINK »

Half a Century Later: What Are the Economic Prospects for Young Black Men?

By Linda Harris

Fifty years ago, we marched!  Today, we commemorate the march, the movement, and the message! But will tomorrow hold promise for this next generation of young men of color?

On this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom we pause and reflect on the significance of that moment, the courage of leadership, the resolve of the marchers - from all races and walks of life -- and the fervor in the collective call for promoting economic justice and ending poverty through unimpeded access to full employment and decent wages for all Americans.  

It was the power of that movement and that conviction that launched organizations like CLASP 44 years ago.  Promoting those policies that lift low-income individuals and families from poverty into the economic mainstream has been etched in our organizational persona since inception.  Yet despite crucial progress, the nation has tremendous work yet to do to realize the vision articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Today, 16 million children - fully one-third of all black and Latino children - live in poverty.  Unless we act soon, mounting evidence suggests that children born into poverty risk continued poverty for much of their adult lives.

Honoring this moment in history provides the opportunity both to remember the path that has been traveled and to advance the course that must be charted to deliver on that promise to children, youth, families, and communities that find themselves still far outside of the economic mainstream.  Honoring the legacy will hopefully inspire us all to be relentless in our advocacy, fervent in our commitment, and bold and innovative in our solutions.  

Beginning on Labor Day, CLASP will be releasing a series of reports and briefs about youth of color that focus on issues impacting their life outcomes, including school discipline, unemployment, dropout prevention, and community interventions.  The first in the series, Feel the Heat: the Unrelenting Challenge of Young Black Male Unemployment, addresses the historically intractable nature of black male unemployment. You may be surprised to learn that at the time of the march in 1963, the employment rates for young black and white men were at parity.  Eighty three percent of young black men age 18 to 24 were working as were 41% of black teens.  This closely tracked the rates of white males. However, the employment situation for black males has been in free fall ever since.  Today the employment rate for 18-24 year-old black males stands at 49% and at 19% for black male teens.  Employment rates for young black men declined every decade without rebounding after each recession.  Employment rates for young white men have declined, as well, but not as dramatically and an increase in school enrollment has mostly taken up the slack among young white men - but not so for young black men.

Our forthcoming report frames a set of solutions that build on public will, community supports, job creation, and education pathways to unlock the door to economic opportunity for this current generation of young black men.  For example, among other things, we recommend:

1.     Setting high expectations for our public systems that touch these young men and of our educational funding streams to adequately prepare and steward young black men to high academic achievement and labor market preparedness.

2.     Investing in aggressive outreach and dropout recovery efforts to reconnect those who have fallen outside the labor market mainstream to supported education and training pathways to labor market opportunity.

3.     Investing in job creation, subsidizing employment opportunities in the public and private sector, to provide early work experience to youth in economically distressed communities and to restore work as a norm for adolescent and young adult development. The experience with the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund and the ARRA Summer Jobs, each of which put more than a quarter of a million people to work, demonstrate the capacity of states and local areas to manage this at scale.

Look for our new report after Labor Day.  In the meantime, please see the fact sheet we have just published that draws on it.

If we do not act now, young black men in many low-income communities will continue to find themselves virtually locked out of employment opportunity.  The confluence of poor schooling; low education attainment; lack of early work experience or career exposure; over-zealous arrests and incarceration; and, employer reluctance to hire has rendered a substantial segment of black men unemployable from very early in their adult lives, with few options available to get back on track.  If we do act now, we have the opportunity to move back on the path to Dr. King's dream. 

This momentous occasion underscores our nation's imperative to address the problems faced by these young black men and redouble our efforts to clear their pathways to economic security.





site by Trilogy Interactive