Search Institute, a member along with Corporate Voices for Working Families of the Ready by 21 National Partnership, recently released Teen Voice 2010 a national survey of 1,860 15-year-olds, sponsored by Best Buy.

“This year’s Teen Voice survey shows us the importance of positive adult-teen relationships. As caring adults, we must all do a better job to give teens the support they need to thrive,” said Brian Dunn, CEO, Best Buy Co., Inc. “Teens play a unique and important role in shaping the world in which we live, and it’s critical that we foster opportunities to make their voices heard and improve their chances for success. “

Teen Voice 2010 explores three interlocking concepts:

  • Sparks – teens’ deepest passions and interests
  • Voice – teens’ confidence, skills and opportunities to influence things that matter to them
  • Relationships – teens’ access to high-quality resources and relationships that help them nurture their strengths

Teens who scored highly in each of the three areas do better on every academic, psychological, social-emotional and behavioral outcome studied, suggesting that they are also on the path to success in school, work and life. This year, only 7 percent of 15-year-olds scored high in all three areas.

The Teen Voice 2010 survey found:

  • Thirty-eight percent of 15-year-olds did not score high on any of the three strength areas.
  • Overall, just 22 percent scored high on the voice index, indicating that few teens feel as though they have the confidence, skills and opportunities to voice their opinion and influence the things that matter most to them.
  • Just 51 percent scored highly on the spark index, indicating a gap in the proportion of teens who are fully engaged with the issues they care about most. This gap could have an effect on workforce readiness. Nearly six in ten (57 percent) students said pursuing their sparks has given them a lot or a great deal of new skills that would help them in a career.

This 49 percent gap in the spark index could continue to have an effect on the preparedness of entry-level workers. As Corporate Voices learned in  Are They Really Ready to Work? new entrants to the workforce do not arrive with a core set of basic knowledge and with the ability to apply their skills in the workplace. A follow-up report, Tomorrow’s Workforce: Ready or Not, showed that young people can learn these important workplace skills, but we, as a country, are failing to provide the opportunities they need to do so.

Young people should have opportunities to participate in the activities they are passionate about. As we state in Strengthening America’s Economic Competitiveness, business, community and education leaders have a chance to come together to “create a coordinated and integrated system of learning and development that provides a range of opportunities” for young people – not only to find and activate their spark, but also to use that spark to gain skills they will need to be successful in the workplace. This success of our future workforce will ultimately drive business sustainability, ensure global competitiveness and uplift the standard of living for working families.

The Teen Voice report includes recommendations and advice directly from young people about how adults can tackle the deep and sustained issues that undermine teens’ success. Adults play an important role in forming relationships with teens, listening to them and serving as positive role models – and teens who have these relationships have a significant leg up when it comes to staying, or getting, on a path to success.

As part of this year’s study, Best Buy and Search Institute created a video to visually highlight the key findings of the report and outline steps adults can take to develop more meaningful relationships with teens. To watch the video, visit

As a Ready by 21 Mobilization Partner, Search Institute will be taking this research into the Ready by 21 communities to assist leaders in engaging the youth in their communities. Youth engagement is an important component of the Ready by 21 strategy, which meets leaders where they are, challenges them to think and work differently, and helps them progress further and faster to deliver results for youth. Without a successful strategy to meet the needs of young people, communities lose their potential to build a competitive workforce, strong social networks, stable families and future leaders.

For more information about @15 and to view the full report, log on to

More information about Ready by 21 and other Corporate Voices’ workforce readiness initiatives, research and publications is available on our website.

By Jennifer Weber