Centering Youth Voices and Equity in a National Youth Subsidized Employment Program

By Kathy Tran

Subsidized employment programs aim to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment during periods of recession. They have been an effective strategy for decades to put people to work and support economic growth. In particular, these programs have helped populations facing high rates of unemployment, including youth aged 16 to 24. However, young people need additional, dedicated federal support to ensure their success joining the workforce.

Young people experienced the highest levels of joblessness even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, they continue to face the steepest barriers to employment. From 2020 to 2023, youth ages 16 to 24 had the highest unemployment rate compared to workers aged 25 to 64. During the height of the pandemic, surveys showed that 1 in 10 young people experienced unemployment due to COVID-19-related reasons.

As Congress considers pandemic recovery efforts, policymakers should consider how a national subsidized employment program can address the youth unemployment crisis. For such a national program to meet its full potential at scale, it must center youth voices and equity at the forefront.

This brief examines the challenges youth face in the current job market and proposes recommendations for a national subsidized employment program that prioritizes equity and amplifies youth voices. The insights provided in this brief are informed by several listening sessions with members of the Communities Collaborating to Reconnect Youth Network (CCRY). CCRY is a national learning community that brings together leaders from different youth workforce systems who focus on reconnecting youth with education and career pathways.

Drawing insights from the CCRY Network, this brief provides recommendations on how decisionmakers can center youth voice and equity in the policy development and program design for a scaled-up national youth subsidized employment program.

>> Read the full brief here