As the U.S. continues to cope with the fallout from financial crisis and as unemployment hovers around 10 percent, many are starting the new year with one goal in mind: finding a job. Although some may have luck, others are finding that the job market is unforgivable. In fact, unemployment seems to be affecting certain segments of the population worse than others.

According to a recent All Things Considered report on National Public Radio, 52 percent of African-American males between the ages of 16 and 19 are unemployed. This is an alarming statistic, and one that highlights the crisis facing at-risk youth in America today.

From the report:

Academics believe fewer than 14 in 100 young black men actually have jobs. Washington, DC has the worst teen employment rate in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This problem has serious long-term effects, as Andrew Sum with the Center for Labor Market Studies says that young people need to work during their teen years:

“These people who work a lot when they’re teenagers not only benefit when they’re teenagers, but they also will work more and earn more when they’re 25 years old,” he says. “The more you work now, the more you work tomorrow.”

And working as a teen leads to higher high school graduation rates, steadier and higher-paying employment down the road, and lower rates of criminal activity.

The report lists discrimination, a lack of professional networks, and the fact that older workers laid off from higher-paying jobs are filling entry-level jobs as reasons why young black men are having difficulties in the labor market.

But what may be at the root of the problem is that young people in America simply lack the skills needed to enter the workforce. Corporate Voices for Working Families is addressing this problem in concert with other organizations though the Ready by 21 Partnership, which aims to improve the odds that young people will succeed throughout high school and be ready for college, work, and life. The Ready by 21 Partnership is a coalition of prominent organizations whose members reach more than 100 million youth across the country. Corporate Voices plans to engage business leaders to help them create partnerships within their local communities to ensure that youth are ready for work.

Ready by 21 is among other major new initiatives Corporate Voices is undertaking to address the urgent need to improve workforce readiness in the U.S.

-Yvonne Siu