Ward off disillusionment among young job-seekers

The 10 percent jobless rate obscures an even more troubling consequence of the global economic downturn: Youth unemployment has reached 19 percent.

As first-time jobseekers drift into prolonged unemployment, young people risk detachment from the labor market and alienation from society. At best, they lose the opportunity for a better life that should be the birthright of every young person in America. At worst, they may be tempted by the lure of alcohol, drugs or crime.

It is well and good for the Obama administration to develop training and job creation programs for all. However, the plight of the young warrants special attention by the president and Congress. 

In its “Jobs for Youth/United States 2009” report, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development praised recent federal government initiatives, including the Workforce Investment Programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and Youth Transition Demonstration projects to foster employment among the disabled.

The OECD then put forward several key recommendations:

•Ensure that youth leave education with the skills required in the labor market;

•Develop nationwide career academies for vocational education; and

•Promote the use of apprenticeships for teenagers. 

For the so-called “disconnected youth” (those facing special challenges to employment or learning), the OECD made these additional recommendations:

•Raise federal funding for programs that serve such youth;

•Create summer jobs programs for at-risk, in-school youth; and 

•Expand Job Corps programs for young adults.

In creating new job opportunities, the Obama team could learn from the successes [in foreign countries] of the Education For Employment Foundation, [which has established] a social franchising network of local non-profit affiliates that have designed and delivered tailor-made training for employers who commit to hire the graduates.

Here is how it works:  Potential employers identify needed skills in short supply.  EFE then offers to deliver a tailor-made training course that will make an unemployable young person job ready within six-months or less.  The employer pre-commits to hire at least 85 percent of the graduates.  …  By hiring young job-seekers they win praise for corporate citizenship.

The companies get better employees at less cost, while the young person gets focused training and a guaranteed job.

Job Corps centers or for-profit career colleges could be retained to make the outreach to potential employers, supplementing labor market surveys with a more direct linking of training to jobs.