Editorial: Alarming number of youth in state not in school, not working

A new survey indicates that an alarming number of young people in Louisiana are not in school and not working.

The Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that more than 22 percent of all Louisiana residents age 16-24

fit in that category.

Only West Virginia has a higher proportion of young people in that age range that are not in school or not working.

The report refers to the young people

as ‘‘disconnected’’ and says that 129,000 young people in the Bayou

State fit that description.

Louisiana’s high school dropout rate has improved in recent years, according to the report, but more needs to be done.

‘‘‘ ... we need to do more to make sure that our young people have multiple options for getting the post-secondary education

and high-quality employment opportunities that will put them on the path to lifelong success and economic security,’’ said

Dr. Anthony Recasner, CEO of Agenda for Children.”

The ‘‘disconnected’’ youth in Louisiana

have been affected by the recession, which has seen many experienced

workers competing

with for entry-level positions that were once filled primarily by

young people. High school dropouts are often times unprepared

for post-secondary education and are at a high risk for either

unemployment or under-employment. The report also noted that

many ‘‘disconnected’’ youth in Louisiana are living in communities

with few jobs and where many adults lack regular employment.

Nationally, 20 percent of disconnected youth are already parents, making it particularly important to help these youth gain

further their skills and education, the report says.

The sour job forecast for these youngsters has long-range implications. A study estimates that for every 16 year-old who drops

out of school and is out of work, taxpayers will incur a lifetime cost of more than $250,000.

The report recommended:

• Creating opportunities for youth in schools and other systems to get work experience through internships, community service,

summer and part-time work.

A national youth employment strategy

developed by policymakers 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.

The issue is particularly vexing in Louisiana where there’s a growing shortage of skilled labor.

The challenge for the state and the business community is how to connect these ‘‘disconnected’’ youth with the job opportunities

that are either currently available or on the horizon, thus creating a win-win situation for both employer and employee.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.