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Postsecondary | Workforce Development

4 Ways to Reduce Youth Unemployment

Posted February 19, 2014

Even though the number of young people with a postsecondary credential or college degree is on the rise, the same cannot be said for youth employment, as many struggle to secure a job. Youth unemployment in the United States currently stands at 16.3%, an unacceptable figure, made even more dismal when including those who are currently working in jobs that do not make full use of their skills and abilities—commonly referred to as the “underemployed.” According to a recent report by the youth advocacy organization Young Invincibles, youth unemployment is costing American taxpayers $25 billion annually.

Here are 4 ways to reduce these numbers:

  1. Increase student exposure to jobs that are in demand—as well as providing a better understanding of industry needs.  This increases the likelihood that young people will find careers that suit their interests while making best use of their skills. Imagine if students were encouraged to explore several careers before and during college through internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, or classroom-based community projects. In a 2013 report released by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, 78% of employers said that completing “an internship or community-based field project to connect classroom learning with real-world experiences” has the potential to help students succeed.

  2. Postsecondary partnerships.  Some colleges and universities have started to provide students with real-world applications. For instance, the University of Oregon’s Sustainable Cities Initiative partners students with business leaders and local government officials to create business plans and solutions to real problems in sustainability, transportation, infrastructure, and city planning. The Sustainable Cities Initiative is now taking place in 11 states, doing their students a great service by proactively connecting them with work experience.

  3. Industry-focused skills programs for students.  There are many industry-focused programs that use innovative practices to connect students to employers at an earlier stage of the job search. In addition, companies such as Modern Technology Council and General Assembly work with young people after they have completed their formal education to sharpen the skills needed to be viable job candidates in the industry of their choice.

  4. Better align workforce demand with college instruction.  Business leaders play a critical role in communicating which skills are in demand and necessary for success in today’s workforce. By using data more effectively to inform recruiting practices, industry leaders can implement feedback mechanisms for institutions to ensure curricula and instruction is applicable for today’s job market.

These three constituencies—students, educators, and business leaders—have an opportunity to change the staggering numbers of young people who leave college unsure of their next step. Addressing this widespread issue requires a systemic solution that will require these groups to act with urgency to improve the transition from school to work—and to partner with one another to get the job done.  

Jaimie Matthews is manager of policy and programs at the USCCF's Center for Education and Workforce.

On February 26, business leaders and current college students will gather to discuss how to improve the transition from school to work. This event is co-hosted at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Young Invincibles. Register here.

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