PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Youth employment in America has reached its lowest level since World War II. A new report
from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found nearly 6.5 million teens and young adults in the U.S. were not in school or working last year.
The executive director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, Elizabeth Burke Bryant, says that, locally, 15 percent, or about 20,000 teens and young adults, were not in class or on the job.
"When we have a significant portion of our young people who are really disconnected, they really become the next group that we need to be very concerned about because they are not going to have the skills and the education that is needed to support families and to really make a meaningful contribution in our society."
One way to address the issue, says Bryant, is to continue on the path of education reform to ensure all students receive a first class education.
"Work to improve the quality of all schools, and really make what's happening in the classroom be at the very highest standards of excellence for our students, as well as very relevant to the needs of the work force. There's been a lot of discussion about the fact that too few graduates have the kind of skill set that employers are looking for."
Bryant says another solution that is gaining traction in the state is partnerships being created between students and schools and employers.
"When businesses connect with schools, they really can generate the kind of excitement and the kind of practical advice to students about what they will need if they want to go on a pathway to working in that particular career."
She says reducing the number of Rhode Island teens and young adults who are disconnected is vital to ensuring a prosperous economic future.
The unemployment figures for minorities, including black and Hispanic youth, are even worse in Rhode Island, as is the case nationally. The report finds that young people want to work, but jobs just aren't available, and attending college or technical school is out of their financial reach.
The full report, "YOUTH AND WORK: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," is at www.aecf.org