Our Youth & the Jobs Deficit
Everyone remembers their first job. But with unemployment at 9.1% — an astounding 24.1% for youth ages 16-19 and 16.1% for youth ages 20-24 – young people are having a hard time finding that first job. These numbers can no longer be ignored or considered the “new normal” — especially with the spiraling costs of higher education. Young people are in a jobs crisis.
The youth jobs crisis is interconnected with the overall recession. When mid-level professionals are unable to find work, many “settle” for jobs that may be classified as ”entry-level” positions. This lack of “entry-level” jobs can easily frustrate recent graduates who have less experience in the workforce. It’s a classic case of falling dominoes. Frustration and discouragement are common reactions in an era of high unemployment, but young workers are especially hard hit. The reality is, every 23 year old is afraid that moving back home with their parents is a sign of failure and every 16 year old needs to begin to learn financial independence.
We are not without tools to deal with this crisis. While the private sector begins to recover, there are well-documented public-service programs that need additional funding. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) has proposed H.Res 216, based on an ADA policy proposal. H. Res 216 calls for the expansion of name-brand, existing programs; AmeriCorps, Job Corps, and the Peace Corps. Additional funding of these programs can put thousands of young people to work immediately; providing structure, income, and career-starting positions that are “shovel ready”. At less than 1% of the entire federal budget, it is money well spent on important community projects and international programs. It also provides important employment opportunities to thousands of young people, from high school students to college graduates, as well as loan forgiveness.
There is more than one way to address the jobs deficit that is stifling the economic prospects of America’s youth, and it is critical that Congress and the Administration address this issue. Even though Congress has not even held a hearing on the topic, there are conversations about it on Capitol Hill. Nelson Rockefeeler said, “It is essential that we enable young people to see themselves as participants in one of the most exciting eras in history, and to have a sense of purpose in relation to it.” This is one of those eras, and if we fail to enable the young people of today, we don’t just fail them. We fail ourselves.
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