By Andrea Mayo
In 2011, nine percent of Texas teenagers age 16 to 19 were neither in school nor in the workforce. Unless Texas takes action, these young people will likely face substantial personal challenges to success and impose a large cost on taxpayers in the short- and long-term.
According to a new KIDS COUNT report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, employment among youth ages 16 to 24 is at its lowest level since World War II and has decreased substantially since 2000. The report, Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, illustrates the high cost of youth unemployment for young people, their families, and the economy both now and in the future. It provides examples of best practices and recommends concrete action items that we can take to help reconnect young people to the labor market and make them more successful:
- A national youth employment strategy that mobilizes multiple stakeholders in a coordinated manner.
- The collaborative alignment of resources to support youth by breaking down the traditional barriers between the multiple private, non-profit, and public programs serving disconnected young people.
- Creating social enterprises and encouraging the creation of small businesses as new and innovative ways to create jobs.
- Engaging the private sector on employer sponsored learn-and-earn programs that provide clear career pathways from school to work.
These are particularly relevant for Texas. While the overall Texas economy has improved since the Great Recession, career opportunities for youth continue to lag. In Texas, 24 percent of teenagers ages 16 to 19 and 63 percent of young adults ages 20-24 are employed. Further, approximately 9.8 percent of Texas teenagers and young adults in this age range (16-24) were classified as in the labor market but unemployed in 2011, a substantially higher rate than Texas’ overall unemployment rate of 7.9 percent. With such high unemployment rates, youth are missing out on the experience and soft skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century labor market.
More than one quarter of Texas’ population is under age 18, and the child population increased by 1 million from 2000 to 2010. As a state with a large, and growing, number of young people, Texas can and must do better to ensure that youth are able to succeed in the labor market.