Building Opportunities for Young People

America’s youngest workers have been disproportionately affected by challenges of thriving in today’s labor market. Millions of young adults are out of school and out of work. For those who find work, jobs are too often less than ideal, offering low wages, no benefits, poor supervision, and irregular hours and schedules. Not connecting to work can have lasting effects, including long-term unemployment, or long-term employment in low-quality jobs.

The Economic Opportunities Program’s Workforce Strategies Initiative is engaged in several projects to learn more about how a variety of organizations – youth development, public workforce, community-based, education, and others – are working hard to provide young adults with the skills and connections needed to succeed in today’s labor market.

Learn more about these projects below:

Generation Work

WSI is a national partner to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Generation Work initiative. Generation Work’s local partners in five cities are engaged in a multi-year effort to develop, test, and scale cross-system strategies to connect young adults ages 18-29 with jobs through (1) demand-driven strategies that focus on building relationships with businesses and factoring in the needs of the local economy and (2) positive youth development strategies, such as mentoring and on-the-job learning. A research brief, “Now Jobs” in Young Adult Workforce Programming explores how workforce providers can help connect young adults to jobs that support their short-term needs while continuing to prepare them for long-term career opportunities.

Young Adult Employment Survey

In 2015, WSI fielded a survey of workforce organizations that serve youth and young adults. We sought to learn about their strategies for helping young adults connect to work opportunities and how service providers think about the characteristics of work that offer meaningful employment opportunity for young people. Almost 400 providers, representing 340 organizations across the United States, responded to the survey. Connecting Young Adults to Employment documents the results of this survey and offers key considerations for practitioners and policymakers seeking to assist young adults in making meaningful connections to work.

Optimizing Talent

In February 2016, JobsFirstNYC and the Economic Opportunities Program released the report Optimizing Talent: The Promise and the Perils of Adapting Sectoral Strategies for Young Workers. This report describes the experiences of a network of young adult and sector workforce practitioners in the Young Adult Sectoral Employment Project (YASEP) initiative – and informs the important question: How can we most effectively adapt sector strategies for young adults?

2017 Survey of Approaches to Prepare Young People for Work

Media accounts of the rise of contingent, 1099, platform-based, and other forms of non-traditional work are hard to miss. But many questions remain unanswered. To what degree are changes affecting the types of work opportunities available to young people? How does this vary from place to place? What are the implications for how organizations focused on education, entrepreneurship, youth development, and workforce development prepare young people for different forms of work? In June 2017, two EOP initiatives, WSI and BOI (formerly FIELD), collaborated to conduct a survey to learn about the perspectives of individuals focused on preparing young people ages 16 to 24 for employment or self-employment. Stay tuned for survey results.