via 1776 Insights

We’re in the midst of high school graduation season. This undoubtedly means you’re inundated with stories about which college your colleague’s child will attend next fall or what great job opportunity has postponed college for now.

I hear a lot of stories about these graduates. However, I don’t hear much about the high school graduates who won’t go to college or immediately enter the workforce. I hear even fewer about those students who, for one reason or another, won’t graduate at all. These students, out of school and the workplace – often called Opportunity Youth – deserve our attention and present both a social challenge and an economic opportunity.

The high number of Opportunity Youth—nearly 6.7 million—is one consequence of the Great Recession. Between 2008 and 2010, the economy shed nearly 8.4 million jobs. Although we’ve experienced steady job growth over the last five years, we’ve yet to see youth employment numbers rebound to pre-recession levels. Youth unemployment remains far above the national average. Young people today experience an unemployment rate far above the national average of 5.6 percent; teens aged 16-19 have an unemployment rate of almost 17 percent, and 20 to 24 year-olds have an unemployment rate of nearly 11 percent. This occurs partly because youth are often the least experienced in the workforce and partly because youth are increasingly ill equipped with the skills to navigate the workforce in the first place.

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