In the wake of President Trump’s call for increased attention to workforce development during the State of the Union address, the Urban Alliance released a white paper with recommendations focused on job training and career planning for youth and young adults.
The white paper, “Job Training Starts Now: Why High School Students Need Youth Employment Opportunities,” offers eight recommendations for addressing the lack of employment training, education and opportunities available to young people. A Brookings Institution report found that 43 percent of teenagers were employed in 2000, compared to just 26 percent in 2014.
“Successfully transitioning American youth from school to career has proved problematic for decades, despite federal legislation and state initiatives,” said the report. “All young people — regardless of school or zip code — should have the opportunity to pursue a pathway to economic self-sufficiency after high school.”
Among the proposals:
- Partnerships with outside organizations that know the local employment landscape can ease the burden on cash-strapped and overworked public schools.
- Intervene before students get too off track. Most interventions happen after the fact, but “by preventing just one youth from disconnecting, philanthropists can save society more than $700,000 over the youth’s lifetime,” the report reads.
- Redefine post-secondary success. Although tracking connection to college after high school is important, “that narrow focus on high school graduation and college enrollment as markers of success discounts other valid, longer-term connections,” the report said.
- Because employers are often faced with an excess of unskilled applicants and bear the consequences of the “skills gap,” the report says, employers should take some responsibility for a solution and provide young people with skill-earning experiences before they leave high school.
Urban Alliance is a national nonprofit that provides job skills training, paid internships, one-on-one mentoring and more to youth in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and northern Virginia.
A six-year evaluation found that the Urban Alliance program increased the probability of college attendance 12 points for men who were offered the program and by 23 percentage points for men who went on to complete the program.
Among what the paper calls the “quiet middle” — those students who aren’t failing or dropping out of high school but also are not earning high grades — completing the Urban Alliance program increased their likelihood of enrolling in a four-year college by 18 percentage points.
“We have an architecture for higher education,” said Urban Institute fellow Robert Lerman, in the report. “There’s a framework for accreditation, tuition and courses. We lack an architecture for what we should be talking about in the workforce [development] field.”
At the State of the Union, Trump said that “as tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential.”
CORRECTION: This story was updated to include Washington, D.C. as part of Urban Alliance’s service area and to clarify the results of the six-year evaluation.