Employment for teens and young adults, ages 16 to 24, is at its lowest level since World War II, according to the Kids Count Youth and Work report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation Monday.
Eighteen percent of California’s teens, ages 16 to 19, and 56 percent of young adults ages 20 to 24 were employed in 2011, according to the report. Compared to other states, California’s teen employment rate was the lowest. In terms of young adults, California ranked fifth from the bottom in front of West Virginia, South Carolina, New York and Mississippi, according to the report.
"All young people need opportunities to gain work experience and build the skills that are essential to being successful as an adult,” Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the foundation, said in the press release. "Ensuring youth are prepared for the high-skilled jobs available in today’s economy must be a national priority, for the sake of their future roles as citizens and parents, the future of our workforce and the strength of our nation as a whole.”
Overall, the study found 6.5 million people, ages 16 to 24, who are neither in school nor working. In California, more than 850,000 youth fit into that category. Such numbers raise concerns since students without early work experience are likely to experience unemployment later, according to the report.
"This report illustrates the need to provide teens and young adults clearer direction to college and careers, and makes the case for stronger connections between the experience they gain in and out of the classroom,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Creating multiple, flexible opportunities for youth was suggested through the report. Specifically, the report recommends:
• A national youth employment strategy that streamlines systems and makes financial aid, funding and other support services more accessible and flexible; encourages more businesses to hire young people; and focuses on results, not process.
• Aligning resources within communities and among public and private funders to create collaborative efforts to support youth.
• Exploring new ways to create jobs through social enterprises such as Goodwill and microenterprises, with the support of public and private investors.
• Employer-sponsored earn-and-learn programs that foster the talent and skills that businesses require — and develop the types of employees they need.
Kids Count’s "Youth and Work” includes the latest employment data for the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the nation, and is available for free download at www.childrennow.org/kcteens2012.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.