How to end youth unemployment in the United States

Poverty & Family Economics

iStock_000001725185MediumYesterday, there was a press conference to discuss legislation that would combat the youth unemployment crisis in the United States. At the HOPE Project Training Center in Washington, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) advocated for his legislation, titled the “Employ Young Americans Now Act,” that seeks to dramatically lower the 19.6 percent unemployment rate suffered by 16- to 19-year-olds in America. Similar legislation has been offered by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) in the House. The event followed public remarks made on Wednesday by Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about the importance of job training for youth.

The press conference highlighted the potential benefits of this bill to unemployed youth across America. Without access to entry-level jobs, it is nearly impossible for youth to develop the skills, experience, and confidence necessary to succeed in today’s job market. Additionally, research shows that individuals who experience early bouts of unemployment make 10 to 15 percent lower wages than their peers later on in life.

In order to help these struggling young Americans, this legislation would allocate $5.5 billion for state and local governments to employ youth between 16 and 24 years old. The U.S. Department of Labor would provide $4 billion in grants to provide summer and year round employment opportunities for low-income youth and another $1.5 billion in competitive grants for work-based training. It is estimated that these programs could lead to the hiring of more than 1 million previously unemployed youth.

These expenditures would reflect a significant increase in the federal government’s investment with youth training. Currently, the federal government has spent less than $10 billion on training programs for young people in the past five years combined. In February of this year, President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposed a similar proposal of $3 billion, a four-year mandatory Connecting for Opportunity initiative for disconnected youth ages 16 to 24. The proposal is two-fold: it provides $1.5 billion for subsidized youth summer and year-round jobs as well as $1.5 billion for grants to municipalities to reengage and offer disconnected youth educational and workforce pathways.

Even though programs do exist for youth training, dedicating more resources to this youth initiative could dramatically curb the disastrous impact of youth unemployment and ensure a better life for our young people.

How to end youth #unemployment in the United States: via @First_Focus #InvestInKids
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