PI Original Bob Skolnik Tuesday December 4th, 2012, 5:16pm

Unemployment, Lack Of Education Plagues Illinois Youth

It’s not easy to find a job these days. And it’s even tougher for young people. Far too many young people are disconnected from both work and school which will cost them, and the rest of us, dearly in the future, according to a study released Monday by the Anne. E. Casey Foundation.

 

It’s not easy to find a job these days. And it’s even tougher for young people. Far too many young people are disconnected from both work and school which will cost them, and the rest of us, dearly in the future, according to a study released Monday by the Anne. E. Casey Foundation.

The study, titled Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, sketches the problem of high unemployment among youth as well as the consequences of being disconnected from the world of school and work.

In Illinois, nearly 270,000 teens and young adults, aged 16 to 24, are unemployed and not attending school. That’s a 16 percent increase since 2000. The number of employed youth in Illinois fell by 19 percent in the past decade going from 950,000 to 779,000 in 2011. Only 28 percent of Illinois teens aged 16 to 19 currently hold a job and only 60 percent of Illinois youth aged 20 to 24 are currently employed according to the study.  

“This is a huge concern for our state, because there are fewer opportunities for our youth who are enthusiastic to use their education and skills, but the economy prevents them from doing so,” said Gaylord Gieseke, the president of Voices for Illinois Children. “To be positioned for success when the state’s economy rebounds, it’s critical that teens and youth get real world experience now.”

High unemployment makes competition for even entry-level jobs fierce and those without education and experience find it hard to land that all important first job.

“Kids are competing for entry level jobs with college graduates and experienced workers,” said Mike Kolody, a board member and volunteer at Jobs for Youth, a Chicago-based youth training program.

There are fewer jobs today than there used to be and employers are demanding higher skills in a labor market transformed by globalization, according the report. It’s especially rough out there for high school dropouts and a high school diploma, and sometimes even a college degree, doesn’t guarantee anyone a job.

Too many young people are what the reports calls disconnected youth, both out of school and without work. The problem of disconnected youth is particularly acute among the poor and minorities. Twenty-nine percent of black young adults in Illinois are disconnected and the figure is 23 percent in the Hispanic community, with both exceeding the national average of 20 percent.

Lack of work during one’s youth typically affects a person for the rest of their lives. Young people need to learn the all-important soft skills of the world of work: showing up on time every day, taking initiative, and teamwork.

If those skills and attitudes are not developed early, it can be hard to develop them later on. One must get to the first step on the career ladder to climb higher.

“Studies show that youth who miss out on an early work experience are more likely to endure later unemployment and less likely to achieve higher levels of career attainment,” the report states. “Everyone needs opportunities in their teen years and young adulthood to experience work and attain the job readiness skills needed for long term success.”

One study estimates that for every 16 year old that it is out of school and out of work, the future burden on taxpayers is $258,040 and the total taxpayer burden for all out of school and out of work youth aged 16 to 24 is $1.56 trillion.

Reconnecting disconnected youth to education and work will require a multifaceted approach, the report states.

“Young people need multiple and flexible pathways to success that meets their varied needs — combining education, training, supportive services, plus strong relationships with adults,” the study concludes.

Education and training must be more closely connected to employment.

“Work itself is the strongest and most effective ‘program’”, the study says. “Early job experience increases the likelihood of more work in the future as well as more employer-sponsored education. A continuum of work experiences from the teen years onward— including volunteer and community service, summer and part-time jobs, work-study experiences, internships and apprenticeships — build job-readiness skills. ”

The study calls for policy makers to develop a national youth employment strategy that builds on public, business and non-profit programs. Funding must be flexible and follow youth whether they are in or out of school. Enhanced support must be given to disconnected youth, including young parents and funding must be linked to meaningful outcomes, such as employment, degrees or credentials, not just to enrollment. The focus must be on accountability, performance and results, not process, the report states. Outcomes must be tracked.

Incentives, such as a youth payroll tax credit, should be used to encourage businesses to take a chance on young workers. Social enterprise and microenterprises are also promising approaches, according to the report.

It will require commitment, money and novel approaches to reconnect many young people to the world of work.

 

Comments

Login or register to post comments

Recent content

Wed
4.16.14
Tue
4.15.14
Mon
4.14.14