The youth employment crisis has never been worse in the United States. Fewer young people are working today than at any time since records started being kept in 1948. America has the smallest percentage of young adults in the labor force of any industrialized country. And yet, the longer it takes to get into workforce translates into diminished earnings for years to comes.
None of this is new information, of course, and policy makers and advocates have been talking about youth unemployment for years. But that conversation has grown stale, according to a new report published by The Youth Transition Funders Group, the result of rigidity in the ways we think about pathways to adulthood, mismatch of policies and investments, and a focus on short-term fixes over long-term solutions.
Instead, the report calls for an overhaul of youth policy based on "eduployment"-- a blending of school and work preparedness -- to ensure that young people successfully navigate our education systems AND the labor market. The main components include:
- Building a unified voice among youth advocates for policy change
- Enhancing student connections to schools
- Extending graduation timelines to recognize that young people may require 5 to 6 years to complete high school
- Making education more responsive with personalization and flexibility, the incorporation of competency-based curricula, increased support for over-age students, and enhanced accountability
- Ensuring that all students are exposed to work experiences while in high school
- Easier transitions into higher education and post-secondary credentials.
Changing the conversation to incorporate a more holistic view of the youth employment crisis won't be easy, the report concedes, but must be done if any meaningful solutions are to be found for the nation's 7 million out of school and out of work 16-24 year olds.
Download the report here