WASHINGTON, D.C. – Urban Alliance, a national youth development nonprofit, today released a white paper laying out eight youth employment recommendations to encourage schools, businesses, philanthropists, and policymakers to re-explore how best to prepare young people for economic success post-high school.
Though high school graduation rates are on the rise nationwide, there are still 4.9 million young people in the country who are disconnected from school or work. Urban Alliance’s paper, co-authored by CEO Eshauna Smith and Director of Data and Accountability Daniel Tsin, argues that the larger community needs to do more to prevent such disconnection before it happens, and that the process starts in high school, by redefining what post-secondary readiness really means.
The paper released today, “Job Training Starts Now: Why High School Students Need Youth Employment Opportunities,” examines the evidence for early work experience and skills training as one solution to youth disconnection. However, most traditional high schools, due to lack of resources and flexibility, are unable to include such opportunities in their curricula. To that end, the authors outline the following recommendations:
- Enhance the high school experience with credit-bearing internships – students should have the opportunity to gain early work experience as part of their high school education.
- Partner with youth employment specialists to support work-based learning – schools can tap into the resources and expertise of organizations or programs that specialize in providing work-based learning opportunities to students.
- Keep youth on track in high school – before they have a chance to get off track – philanthropists should invest in both reconnection AND prevention strategies to address the problem of youth disconnection more holistically.
- Encourage the business community to invest in youth – philanthropists can add credibility to youth employment organizations by becoming early public champions.
- Redefine post-secondary success – measure post-high school success more broadly by including connection not just to college, but to other pathways to economic stability, such as vocational training or employment.
- Increase collaboration among data sources – make it easier to track student outcomes post-high school through increased streamlining and availability of data.
- Realize the potential of young workers – work with organizations in the field to learn more about the benefits of high school-age interns.
- Invest in workforce development now – early investment in workforce development will create a new generation of workers better positioned for success.
“At Urban Alliance, we believe that all youth should have exposure and access to early work experiences, but too many young people don’t get such an opportunity,” said Smith. “We can do better by our youth – and we know that early work experience is a solution that works. That’s why we’re encouraging businesses, schools, philanthropists, and policymakers to invest in youth employment to help the next generation toward lifelong economic success.”
Urban Alliance partners with the business community to provide economically-disadvantaged high school students with paid, professional internships, job skills training, and individualized mentoring. The goal is to expand their idea of what is possible for their future and prepare them for lives of self-sufficiency. Founded in Washington, D.C. in 1996, Urban Alliance has since expanded to Baltimore, Chicago, and most recently, Northern Virginia. To date, Urban Alliance has placed over 4,000 students in paid internships, and served another nearly 18,000 through job skills training.