Monday, March 26, 2012

Recent News from the Field

Unequal Access to Higher Education is a Reality for Low-Income Students 
New York Times columnists David Firestone and Paul Krugman recently responded to Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's stance on government supports for improving access to higher education.  Krugman in particular points out just how unequal college access really is, with low-income students who perform well on tests significantly less likely to graduate than poorly performing students in higher income brackets.  JobsFirstNYC directly supports innovative college-access programs tailored specifically to low-income students, such as the Bronx Opportunity Network.

January Jobs Report: Unemployment Rate Rose to 9.3% in NYC
The NYCLMIS January 2012 Jobs Report shows that despite signs of economic improvement nationwide, the unemployment rate in NYC was actually up from December and from one year ago.

Major trends in NYC that month included large job losses in retail, administrative, accommodation and food service--jobs that are often the most accessible for out-of-work/school young adults.  Unemployment rates continue to be highest in the Bronx and Brooklyn, home to some of the most historically under-served communities in the city.

Economic Policy Institute: Weak Labor Market is Particularly Tough for Young, Entry-Level Workers
Using data from their upcoming edition of The State of Working America, EPI shows how wages for young entry-level workers have declined or stagnated since 2000. In 2011, the average entry-level wage for a male high school graduate entering the labor force was $11.68, while a male college graduate could expect to make $21.68.  Wages were even lower for young women, to say nothing of young adults with no diploma.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Resources: More Free Educational Videos

Following up on last week's post about the SchoolTube video sharing service comes news of two additional major sources of free educational videos for primary and secondary students:

Kahn Academy: With the goal of "changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere," Kahn Academy offers over 3,000 high quality, well organized videos covering K-12 math, biology, chemistry, physics, finance, history and SAT prep.  Students practice with self-paced exercises and can chart their progress through the material instantaneously through the sites colorful charts.  There's even an official iPad app for learning on the go.

YouTube For Schools:  Video sharing site YouTube, commonly blocked within school settings over concerns that students will search for cute cat videos (or worse) instead of as a tool to enhance learning, is appealing to educators through a new customizable service.  Launched in December 2011, YouTube for Schools enables teachers and educational organizations to allow access only the videos they feel are appropriate from among YouTube's vast library, with each one scrubbed of all comments and linked only to other related educational videos.  The YouTube for Schools service has already garnered high praise from many educators, although New York City (the nation's largest school district) continues to block YouTube from its network.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will often hurt me

Today's post is written by Evelyn Fernandez-Ketcham, JobFirst NYC's Deputy Executive Director.  Evelyn joined JobsFirst NYC in November 2011 after many years as the executive director of New Heights Neighborhood Center in Washington Heights. 

WORDS DO MATTER.  In a field full of jargon and stereotypes, labels impact how the public views young people, and how young people themselves view their own opportunities. 

Consider the negative language associated with young people:
  • Through the 1980’s, these youth were called “high school dropouts "
  • During the 90’s they became “Push Outs” and “Over Aged and Under Credit”
  • More recently, they were “Disconnected Youth"

The last one is particularly galling.  There’s nothing “disconnected” about today’s young people; more often than not, it’s the systems that serve youth that are disconnected. 

A new report for the White House Council for Community Solutions, Opportunity Road: The Promise and Challenge of America’s Forgotten Youth (PDF, January 2012) suggests a new term: “Opportunity Youth.”  As the authors explain, disengaged young people "represent enormous untapped potential for our society, start out life with big dreams that include graduating from college. Notwithstanding challenging life circumstances, including living in poverty, they remain optimistic about their futures and believe they will achieve their goals in life. They accept responsibility for their decisions, but also yearn for support along what they hope will be a road to opportunity. Our society often treats them as problems to be addressed, but their voices show that they are potential to be fulfilled and can become key leaders in our society if given a chance." 

While this report makes the case for a return on the investment of taxpayers as an argument to now begin to do something about a crisis that has been brewing for over a decade, it fails to provide creative solutions fitting with the economic landscape and life in the 21st century.  The programs highlighted are great programs that might work for young people that are at a higher level of functioning along a continuum regarding literacy, numeracy and work readiness. 

In NYC alone, there are close to 180,000 older youth that are out-of-work and out-of-school.  As a nation, we must be willing to provide older youth that are far behind from readiness true and meaningful opportunities to transition and acculturate to the World of Work.  It will require a public and private will to be able to prepare today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.

In the land of Opportunity, what we finally have is a real opportunity to help American-born, older youth that are out-of-work and out-of-school and DIS-ENGAGED from the American dream!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Unequal treatment, revealed

 We know that minority youth make up a disproportionate percentage (PDF) of the young people leaving high school early, with the graduation rate among students of color is as much as twenty-five percentage points below their white peers.

While numerous factors play into a young person's decision not to complete high school, unequal treatment of minorities in the nation's schools clearly plays a significant, in not decisive, role.  As reported by the New York Times, a new survey by the US Dept. of Education covering 85 percent of the nation’s students confirms that "Black students, especially boys, face much harsher discipline in public schools than other students," tend to have less experienced and poorer paid teachers, and are much less likely to be offered advanced classes and challenging subjects.  Among the key findings:

  • Although black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions.
  • One in five black boys and more than one in 10 black girls received an out-of-school suspension. Over all, black students were three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.  
  • In districts that reported expulsions under zero-tolerance policies, Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of the student body, but 56 percent of those expelled under such policies. 
  • Over 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black. 
  • Black and Hispanic students — particularly those with disabilities — are disproportionately subject to seclusion or restraints. Students with disabilities make up 12 percent of the student body, but 70 percent of those subject to physical restraints. Black students with disabilities constituted 21 percent of the total, but 44 percent of those with disabilities subject to mechanical restraints, like being strapped down. And while Hispanics made up 21 percent of the students without disabilities, they accounted for 42 percent of those without disabilities who were placed in seclusion. 
  • While 55 percent of the high schools with low black and Hispanic enrollment offered calculus, only 29 percent of the high-minority high schools did so — and even in schools offering calculus, Hispanics made up 20 percent of the student body but only 10 percent of those enrolled in calculus.
  • While black and Hispanic students made up 44 percent of the students in the survey, they were only 26 percent of the students in gifted and talented programs.
  • The data also showed that schools with a lot of black and Hispanic students were likely to have relatively inexperienced, and low-paid, teachers. On average, teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues elsewhere. In New York high schools, though, the discrepancy was more than $8,000, and in Philadelphia, more than $14,000.
It doesn't require much analysis to recognize that if you treat young people harshly, give them substandard resources and less talented teachers, and fail to set high expectations, they will quickly become demoralized about the high school experience.

The full results of the survey will be posted online at

Friday, March 9, 2012

News and Updates from JobsFirstNYC

Conference Calls with JobsFirstNYC to Discuss the YouthWorks RFP and RFA
Well, the YouthWorks RFP is out and responses are due on March 19th, and the RFA is out and applications are due on March 31. And we are getting loads and loads of questions.

So to assist, JobsFirstNYC is hosting two conference calls next week for anyone interested in learning more about this new funding initiative. We are scheduling two conference calls.

In the first call - scheduled for Tuesday March 13th from 3-4:30 p.m., we will:
  • Provide an overview of the RFP process and contents of the RFP itself;
  • Discuss potential implications for this initiative - what this new RFP means for your program should you apply;
  • Provide an overview of the National Work Readiness Credential (NWRC) component
  • Answer general questions about the process
However, we know that a lot of people have questions and concerns about the National Work Readiness Credential itself. So on Thursday, March 15th from 1:30-3:00 p.m., we are hosting a second call to specifically address the NWRC including:
  • An overview of what the NWRC is (and is not)
  • Specific requirements to become a training provider of the NWRC
  • Specific requirements to incorporate the NWRC in the current YouthWorks RFP (and to consider its implication for other funding streams)
But we also want to hear from you, and are gathering feedback on this specific tool to discuss with policy makers and others. So be prepared to share your questions and perspectives as well. 

You can participate in either call or both, but we are limited to the first 95 callers, so we will handle RSVP's for this call on a first-come, first-serve basis. To RSVP, please contact Gwen Hill at We strongly prefer that RSVP's come by e-mail to us, and not by phone. Thank you, and we look forward to speaking with you on these important issues.  

Registration is Open for the March 27
Job Developer Networking Event
We're at it again! Because Job Developers have simply demanded it, registration is now open for the upcoming Job Developer Networking Breakfast on March 27 from 8:30-10a.m, co-hosted by JobsFirstNYC and WPTI.

As with past sessions, this event will include plenty of time for open networking with your job developer colleagues.

We will be joined by guest speaker Andrew Rigie, Executive Vice President of the NY Restaurant Association, along with several employer representatives from the restaurant industry. Mr. Rigie will share his insights on trends and issues in the restaurant industry, as well as advise Job Developers on how best to approach restauranteurs and other food service businesses with respect to their efforts to refer young people to employment.

In addition, practitioners will have the opportunity to share with the employers their perceptions of the industry, and both the challenges and opportunities that may exist in terms of making better connections between employers and CBO's.

This event will afford job development staff an opportunity to take advantage of:

        -  a space for reflection
        -  a space for brainstorming new ways to approach the work
        -  a space for networking and making organizational connections

This is sure to be a great event, and we hope you will join us.  Click here to register for the March 27 Job Developers' Breakfast.  The event will take place at the Sheraton Brooklyn, 228 Duffield Street.  Please contact Sharon Sewell at 646-278-5686 with registration questions.

News from the Field
High Unemployment for Workers Age 16-24 Persists Despite Recent Signs of Economic Growth
Last week's Economic Snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the unemployment rate for young workers has improved to 16%, from a peak of 19.6% in the spring of 2010.  Even these improved numbers represent an uphill battle for young adults in a very challenging labor market for young adults.

2nd Annual State of the New York City Workforce System: One System for One City Report Released

This report summarizes the City's efforts to serve the employers and job seekers during Fiscal Year 2011. Like its predecessor, it collates information across all City-run workforce programs, including work-related education, job training and employment services. Its purpose is to provide policymakers and the general public with information on the content of New York City's workforce development programs, the customers they are serving, and how effectively they are doing so in the context of the current labor market.

March Real-Time Jobs Report

Are you interested in last month's hiring trends in New York City? The Labor Market Information Service (LMIS) March Real-Time Jobs Report breaks hiring trends down by employer, sector, job title and more.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Resource: SchoolTube

From time to time, JobsFirst NYC publicizes resources that better enable educators and youth practitioners to help young people make positive choices in life.

Launched in 2007, SchoolTube is a video sharing website for K-12 education created in response to large-scale access restriction of mainstream video-sharing sites in public schools in the United States.  Much of the material available on SchoolTube has been created by young people for young people.  SchoolTube is more heavily moderated than other video-sharing websites as a result of its unrestricted access in many US public schools.

The site includes a whole series of videos related to dropout prevention, including the one below that aired on the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs.


And, of course, YouTube contains multitudes of video material on dropout prevention.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A long tunnel, still no light for those at the back of the line

Despite the trickle of promising economic forecasts making the headlines of late, several recent reports remind us that employment prospects for workers with minimal education remain bleak.

  • More Than Half Of Older High School Dropouts Not Employed Today: More than half of American high school dropouts above age 25 are currently out of work, The Wall Street Journal reported on February 21. Moreover, those who didn't finish high school see few signs that their situation will change any time soon: While 1.8 million college graduates have found work since January 2010, some 128,000 high school dropouts have lost their jobs during the same period.  The effects of mass unemployment will be felt by this group for years to come.  As the Huffington Post adds, "High school dropouts stand to earn about $400,000 less over the next five decades than their peers who earned a diploma, and they're twice as likely to end up living in poverty as Americans who have completed high school.  Overall, the employment rate for young adults ages 18 to 24 is the lowest it's been in sixty years."

  • (Of course, these days even a college degree does not always provide protection from the hard labor market.  In a report released at the beginning of February, Five Long-Term Unemployment Questions, the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative discovered that, once unemployed, college graduates and even advanced degree holders are as likely to experience long-term joblessness as high school dropouts.)

  • In Today's Economy, How Far Can A GED Take You?  Many young people who consider dropping out of school believe that passing the General Educational Development test, or GED, will provide them with an educational credential equivalent to a high school diploma.  As NPR reported on February 18, however, employers feel otherwise.  The latest research shows that people with GEDs are, in fact, no better off than dropouts when it comes to their chances of getting a good job.  The reason: especially for lower-end jobs, employers are looking for characteristics like "perseverance and tenacity, and those kinds of qualities that are not measured by the GED."  Instead, employers generally view the GED as a poor replacement for the dedication required to successfully complete four years of high school classes.  

The fact that only one in ten GED holders eventually goes on to receive a college degree further calls into question whether the test really demands the same level of educational attainment as a high school diploma.  To allay these fears, the current GED format will be replaced by two new tests in 2014 — one that's aligned with more rigorous high school standards, the other more attuned to career and college readiness.  Nicole Chestang, vice president of the GED Testing Service, explains "We are developing a GED test in the future which will point toward more information for employers and colleges and individuals about the basic skills that they have and at what level have they mastered them."

  • No Diploma, No Job.  Finally, Philadelphia's WHYY public radio station and Philadelphia Public School Notebook,  an independent, nonprofit news service, have teamed up to cover the many dimensions of life for young people who leave Philadelphia's school early and find themselves stuck in neighborhoods where unemployment tops 50%.