Youth Employment Works Launch – Centering Young People in Workforce Development Opportunities

Women working on laptop
Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio

On March 9th, the U.S. Department of Labor announced its Youth Employment Works strategy, a vision for how the workforce system serves young people across the country. Youth Employment Works provides a framework for how youth and young workers will be centered within workforce development conversations at the agency and beyond. 

The strategy covers young people ages 14 to 24 years old, including young people who may or may not be enrolled in formal education (youth ages 16-24 not enrolled in school or working are considered opportunity youth). Research cited in a Department of Labor blog reports decades of declining workforce participation for young adults and estimates more than 4 million young people, ages 16-24, are not in school or working. The Department of Labor is specifically seeking to remove barriers of entry into the workforce for young people who are disconnected from the formal education system, with the launch of Youth Employment Works.

Barriers to entry are fairly common for many young people across the U.S. Common barriers include things like child care, transportation, housing and pay. With Youth Employment Works, the Department is thinking about ways in which career pathways and opportunities can be expanded to include young people, regardless of the barriers they might be facing. 

Keeping in mind that young people are the next in line to innovate and grow local economies through their position in the workforce, the Youth Employment Works strategy is focused on what needs to be done, in partnership with other Federal agencies and local institutions to create more seamless systems of entry into–and support to the navigate–the workforce. 

Students working at a table

Photo Courtesy of Jopwell

Youth Employment Works includes three bold goals: 

Ensure a “no wrong door” youth workforce system that offers uninterrupted access to support services and workforce development opportunities for young people.

The Department is working to make sure that all systems are in alignment, breaking down silos, and bridging pathways for young people to experience a more seamless system with the resources in their programs. 

Increase commitments to career pathways for young people, so that across all sectors – public and private – are invested in high-quality pathways for young people.

The strategy is focused on building partnerships across sectors – business, employers, training partners, philanthropy, labor organizations, etc. – to best facilitate high quality career pathways and ensure that those players understand the ways the workforce system can be an ally and a partner to young people. 

Offer safe and age appropriate paid work experiences to ensure that all young people, especially opportunity youth, can access and participate in high-quality, career aligned experiences.

Paid work experiences are critical for a number of reasons, but specifically for opportunity youth, there is a suite of research that finds when young people are disconnected from learning and work early in their lives, it creates generational impacts. It impacts their earning potential and outcomes for decades. Preventing disconnection in the early years is critical to ensuring that young people are off and launched on a journey to success for the rest of their lives. 

Grinding with tool

Photo courtesy of Anamul Rezwan

Call to Action – What You Can Do 

As part of that strategy, a Call to Action on Youth Employment was launched. This Call to Action encourages employers, philanthropy, community based organizations – YOU – to share more about the ways in which you are partnering with the workforce system. It encourages partners to set goals to deepen, scale and/or improve their touch-points with the public workforce system. 

Youth Employment Works encourages connecting young workers to the administration’s focused investments in advanced manufacturing, construction, and clean energy, including efforts like registered apprenticeships that increase the numbers of caring professionals such as case managers and educators.  

Join the Call to Action on Youth Employment today and learn more about the ways in which your program can support youth people on their path to meaningful employment. 

The Youth Employment Works announcement builds on a track record of the Biden-Harris administration launching multiple initiatives to support young people and their families to learn, grow and thrive via out-of-school time and STEM learning opportunities, as well as within youth employment. Equity and access have been a central focus of several of recent initiatives and campaigns, including Engage Every Student, The National Partnership for Student Success and YOU Belong in STEM


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