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Dec 3, 2012 12:24 PM by Melissa Canone

22% of La. Youth Ages 16-24 are Not in School and Not Working

NEW ORLEANS- More than one out of every five Louisiana young people ages 16-24 is considered "disconnected," meaning that they are not in school and not working. Strong connections to employment or formal training and education at this critical stage sets the stage for a young person's future, and helps to ensure that they will gain the skills they need to compete in the 21st century workplace, according to a new KIDS COUNT® report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report finds that youth employment across the nation is at its lowest level since World War II. In Louisiana, just 41% of youth ages 16-24 were employed in 2011, down from 49% in 2000. Louisiana also has one of the highest rates of disconnected youth in the country-only West Virginia had a higher proportion of disconnected youth. The report outlines many of the challenges that young people face in getting connected to employment or post-secondary education. In the wake of the recession, many older and more experienced workers are competing for entry-level positions that were once taken primarily by young people. While graduation rates in Louisiana have been rising in recent years, too many children still leave school before graduation, leaving them unprepared for most post-secondary education and at a high risk for unemployment and underemployment throughout their lives. In 2011, 7% of teens ages 16-19 in Louisiana were not in school and had not received a high school diploma. The report also finds that many youth face challenges beyond their immediate control, such as living in communities with few jobs or where many adults lack regular employment.

"Throughout my career, I have worked with thousands of young people, virtually all of whom wanted the same thing-a solid education and a good job at the end of that education," said Dr. Anthony Recasner, CEO of Agenda for Children. "However, with 22% of our young people not in school and not working, we need to do more to make sure that our young people have multiple options for getting the post-secondary education and high-quality employment opportunities that will put them on the path to lifelong success and economic security."

Connecting more young people to education and employment opportunities can have a positive impact on Louisiana's economy and help to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. One study estimated that every 16 year-old who drops out of school and is out of work, taxpayers will incur a lifetime cost of more than a quarter million dollars. By increasing the educational and long-term career prospects for young people now, we can also reduce the number of children who grow up in poverty over the course of the next decade. Nationally, one-fifth of disconnected youth are already parents, making it particularly important to help these youth gain further their skills and education.

Disconnected youth are a diverse group, and ranges from the 16 year-old who recently dropped out of school to the 24 year-old parent who completed high school but can't find work. Because of this diversity, the report stresses the need to provide many different pathways to help disconnected youth get back on track. Some of the report's major recommendations include:

Creating opportunities for youth in schools and other systems to get work experience through internships, community service, summer and part-time work.
A national youth employment strategy developed by policymakers that streamlines systems and makes financial aid, funding and other support services more accessible and flexible; encourages more businesses to hire young people; and focuses on results, not process.

Aligning resources within communities and among public and private funders to create collaborative efforts to support youth.

Exploring new ways to create jobs through social enterprises such as Goodwill and microenterprises, with the support of public and private investors.
Employer-sponsored earn-and-learn programs that foster the talent and skills that businesses require - and develop the types of employees they need.

Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity is available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org. Youth and Work includes the latest youth employment data for every state, the District of Columbia and the nation. Additional information on disconnected youth and young adults is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.

Follow the Annie E. Casey Foundation and this issue on Twitter @aeckidscount and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KIDSCOUNT.

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