(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, December 03, 2012 6:08 PM
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.