In Focus: Youth of Color

Jul 14, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

In Case You Missed It: "Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise and Opportunity"

Last month, CLASP's Youth Team hosted “Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise and Opportunity,” a briefing on the education and employment solutions that communities of color have implemented for boys ages 12-24. It also lifted up the voices of young men who these innovative programs are helping to transform. The event was co-sponsored by PolicyLink, the National Council of La Raza, the Executive Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Young Men of Color, and the Institute for Black Male Achievement.

Among the many nuggets of wisdom shared were three framing ideas put forth by keynote speaker Joshua DuBois, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He said that when working with and supporting young men of color, you must first take the time to know their stories. Second, you must like them in spite of their stories. And third, you must give them the tools they need to write the next chapter of their lives.

These themes were passionately reinforced by the four young men who spoke. They each named a particular individual who took a special interest in them, demonstrated love, and pushed them toward greatness. These young men also felt a tremendous responsibility to give back to their communities to help other youth succeed. Their stories of triumph over chronic trauma and poverty demonstrated the tremendous value of quality youth education and employment programs.

The panel of community leaders shared elements of their models of effective engagement with young men in an age group that many have written off. Through their work, young men have had their eyes opened to their value and place in society, and been equipped with skills to be successful in postsecondary pursuits and careers of their choosing. The community leaders also shared important perspectives on how current public policy is impeding their ability to work with young men and suggested common sense solutions.

Click here to learn more about the participants and view videos about youth education and employment programs.

You can also access related policy briefs on education, employment, and healthy communities.

Watch highlights and the full briefing, and hear the young men's stories-- Wilmer, Anjel, Brandon, and Troy

 

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 2, 2013  |  PERMALINK »

Where Do We Go From Here? Solutions in the Wake of Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman

By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant

I was in Florida visiting my family, less than 100 miles from Sanford, when the verdict was delivered declaring George Zimmerman not guilty. I remember feeling numb, then sick to my stomach. My reaction was intensified by the fact that I was with the African American males who matter the most to me: my husband, a dark-skinned man with a booming voice and larger-than-life personality; my younger brother, a six-foot, one-inch man with an easygoing spirit who works in corporate America by day and the music scene by night; and my eight-year-old son, an inquisitive young man who is one of my life's greatest joys. As I looked at them, hot, angry tears flowed down my cheeks. I shut off my phone and the television.  I didn't want to see any news stories, talk to anyone, or read any blog posts or tweets. I just wanted to be alone with my anger and grief. I needed that time and space to process the verdict and its implications.

Later, when I listened to President Obama's response to the verdict, I imagined that he, too, needed that same kind of time. As the leader of a nation, the President is required daily to process situations quickly and decisively, and to make statements about the nation's position and next steps, almost immediately. But this time was different. As an African American man and father, I am sure this case hit home and struck a chord in ways no other policy or issue has during his presidency. President Obama said, "Trayvon Martin could have been my son[...] Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." One must understand that the killing of Trayvon Martin and the "not guilty" verdict of George Zimmerman hit African Americans like the knockout blow of a heavyweight fighter. African Americans like our President.

President Obama acknowledged some important truths in his speech about the Zimmerman verdict-truths no president has ever stated so plainly. First, America's criminal laws are applied unevenly, resulting in racial disparities in "everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws." In 2010, the Sentencing Project found that African Americans were incarcerated at a rate 5.6 times higher than that of whites. Research shows that this trend was exacerbated by the "war on drugs" that began in the 1980s. In 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparities for crack versus powder cocaine. This legislation came about, in part, because of research that showed both versions of the drug were essentially the same. Prior to the passage of this law, 80 percent of those sentenced for dealing crack cocaine were African American.

So, where do we go from here?

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