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Reports & Research

New Opportunities to Support Youth Employment

Dec 8, 2015

In this article, ICF experts examine the risks associated with our current high level of youth unemployment and how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was designed to help.

Youth employment currently stands at its lowest level in more than 60 years with approximately 6.7 million Americans ages 16 to 24 who are neither employed nor enrolled in school. Roughly 3.4 million are “chronically disconnected” and more likely to have grown up in poverty, to be young men of color, and face a confluence of risk factors. Studies estimate that each year of disconnection can reduce a young person’s lifetime earnings by 2 to 3 percent.

The WIOA is the first reform of the public workforce system in 15 years, designed to connect high-risk young people to training and employment services, leading to employment and career pathways, or enrollment in postsecondary education. Providing these types of services requires cross-sector collaboration between the public workforce system, employers, colleges, and youth-serving organizations. WIOA incentivizes and supports this type of coordination, and if fully implemented, will provide vulnerable young people a chance at achieving a successful transition to adulthood.

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