Data Supports Corporate Voices’ Ongoing Efforts to Strengthen America’s Businesses and Job-Seeking Young Adults Through Smarter Workforce Training Investments

Last week, Demos, a New York-based  non-partisan public policy research and advocacyImage organization, released its report, Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Jobs Crisis, highlighting the current youth employment crisis in the United States and examining how the struggles and experiences of young adults in 2012 will impact the future of the U.S. workforce.

Through analysis of Department of Labor statistics, Demos found there are currently 5.6 million 18 to 34-year-olds who are both willing and able to take a job and actively looking for work, but are shut out of opportunities for employment. This is particularly difficult for young adults without a high school diploma, as 19.7 percent of 18 to 24-year-old high school graduates with no college experience are unemployed while 1 in 3 are underemployed. Additionally, Demos found that the young adult workforce would need 4.1 million new jobs to return to pre-recession levels, and at the rate of job growth after the Great Recession, the country will not recover to full employment levels until 2022. In short, the outlook does not look good for young adults looking for work now and in the immediate future.

This crisis has had a drastic effect on the business community as well. The Manpower Group’s 2012 Talent Shortage Survey found that there are 3.4 million job vacancies left unfilled as employers have reported difficulty in finding the skilled workers they need to fill positions. This disconnect between companies looking for skilled and motivated talent and ambitious young people looking for work weighs on our economic recovery and on our long-term strength as a nation. America needs to harness and engage all of its human capital to compete globally. Smart investment in youth training and human capital development is just that—an investment in being smarter about how businesses and individuals all lean into the future.

As Congress seeks proven returns on public investments, looking to new models of transparent and accountable public private partnership provides the vision for success. These new pathway models demonstrate what can be done to update and reinvigorate the nation’s workforce training system, building on the foundation to meet current realities and future opportunities.

For several years, Corporate Voices for Working Families has been at the forefront of analyzing the business impact of increased investment in employment pathway programs for young adults. Businesses across the country have collaborated with local partners and public programs to meet their talent development goals by developing employment pathway opportunities for untapped talent – a population of 6.7 million opportunity youth.

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation under its New Options Project, Corporate ImageVoices has identified and spotlighted businesses that make significant contributions to employment pathways that provide career training to low-income young adults.

Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Jobs Crisis serves as further evidence that business and public partners need to work together to invest in employment pathway programs for opportunity youth to secure a talented and stable workforce that businesses need today and in the future.

Corporate Voices’ series of micro-business cases is available here.

The Demos report Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Jobs Crisis is available here.

Founded in 2001, Corporate Voices for Working Families is the leading national business membership organization shaping conversations and collaborations on public and corporate policy issues involving working families. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, we create and advance innovative policy solutions that reflect a commonality of interests among the private sector both global and domestic, government and other stakeholders.

We are a unique voice, and we provide leading and best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families, while strengthening our nation’s economy and enhancing the vitality of our communities.

While many young Americans describe the receipt of a high school diploma as a moment in which all their hard work and commitment has finally ‘paid off’, their slightly older peers will be there to remind them that this ‘paid’ feeling is not to last.

Recently, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University surveyed 544 high school graduates who are not enrolled full time in college. Fully 73 percent of these young Americans feel that a college degree is a necessary step in securing a successful future, only half said they will enroll in college in the near future.

It is assumed that those who do not go on to pursue a college education will try their luck in the workforce. Yet the survey noted that only 37 percent of people who graduated between 2006 and 2008 currently have a full-time job. Of those who graduated only a few years later in what the study dubbed the ‘recession era’ (2009-2011), a mere 16 percent had found full-time employment. Another 22 percent were working part time, but most wanted full-time work.

The main reason given by those who did not seek a college education was economics. In fact, 80 percent of respondents cited an economic barrier to going to college full time. Whether it is due to the high tuition, the need to work to support themselves, or the responsibility of caring for family, many who desire college simply cannot afford it.

The Rutgers survey noted that many chose to enter the workforce instead of going to college because most of their parents had done the same. However, only one in ten surveyed felt that they were “extremely well prepared by their high school to succeed in their job after graduation”. Furthermore, less than half of high school graduates without a college education thought that they would have more financial success than their parents.

In a sobering outlook on their future, barely half of the youth surveyed believed they would find a job that could be considered the start of their career within the “next few years”. Similarly, close to the same percent believed that if this job were to be found, it would come without health insurance.

As a result of the formidable unemployment concern in a nation considered the richest in the world, less than half of 18-24 year old high school graduates not enrolled full time in college believe that the near future holds for them a job that would allow them “to lead a comfortable life.”

At Corporate Voices for Working Families, much of our work is focused on identifying and promoting employer-driven solutions to the challenges facing young adults like those surveyed here.  Our own research on this population is summarized in our 2011 report, A Profile of Young Workers (16-26) in Low-Income Families. The study highlighted the financial and educational shortcomings associated with employees from low-income families, and contrasts their experience with that of their peers from higher-income households.

Similarly, our work with the New Options Project, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, aims to align the hiring needs of employers with new sources of untapped talent—including young people lacking a high school diploma, but eager to find meaningful career opportunities that match their skills. Recently, the New Options Project launched a micro-site called Connecting Youth and Business to aid employers in creating employment and educational opportunities for underserved or “opportunity” youth. And our Learn & Earn initiative and related work around postsecondary completion, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, seeks to encourage innovative partnerships between employers, community colleges and higher education institutions to help today’s “working learners”—often low-income young adults—complete their education while holding down a job.  By advancing policy solutions like these, we are working with progressive business leaders to improve the lives of too many young people who have been left behind in today’s challenging labor market.

This post was contributed by Stephen M. Wing, President of Corporate Voices for Working Families.

Sparking an economic revival and creating new jobs has no higher national priority. Yet as a national business membership organization representing companies who employ millions of Americans, Corporate Voices for Working Families grapples with a related and urgent imperative: A widespread “skills gap,” which leaves many employers struggling to fill job openings even as millions of Americans search for work. We regard this skills gap as one of the most pressing issues facing business competitiveness and the economic security of working families today.

In Across the Great Divide, a report Corporate Voices published this year in partnership with Civic Enterprises and others, 53 percent of business leaders surveyed said their companies face a “very or fairly major” challenge recruiting employees with the skills, education and training their business needs. Those at smaller companies, who were responsible for more than half of new jobs created in recent years, felt the skills gap most acutely: Fully 67 percent said it was difficult to find and hire the right employees.

In our view, addressing this crisis—the skills gap that limits the opportunities and dreams of too many Americans—is a necessary condition of success within a much needed economic revival.

We know America’s greatest resource has always been the talent of its people and the innovation of its businesses.  That’s why we are proud to be part of Opportunity Nation, an unprecedented broad-based non-partisan coalition of public, private, civilian and military organizations creating and advocating for better skills, better jobs and better communities.

We believe that only by including employers as true partners and utilizing their expertise can we meet Opportunity Nation’s campaign goals of promoting opportunity, social mobility and the American dream.  Businesses know best the skills needed in employees and are the importance lynchpin in the creation of enterprising pathways that connect, cultivate and sustain previously untapped talent, or disconnected youth, with the skills needed to succeed on the job.

Corporate Voices’ partner in the New Options Project – a multi-year initiative that seeks to connect more than four million young adults with no high school diploma to meaningful career opportunities that match their talents and skills – Year Up is assembling a panel at the upcoming Opportunity Nation Summit being held in New York City November 3-4.  The panel will highlight the community and education partnerships and business best practices that are working to connect the needs of employers with the skills development of the nation’s workforce. The panel entitled, “Opening Pathways to Prosperity: Expanding Options for Job Training and Success” will include the following innovative and inspiring individuals:

  • Rana Foroohar – Assistant Managing Editor for TIME Magazine (Moderator)
  • Gerald Chertavian – Founder and CEO of Year Up
  • John Galante – Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at JPMorgan Chase
  • Mike Jennings – Director of IT, LinkedIN
  • Jane Oates – Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration at U.S. Department of Labor
  • Dorothy Stoneman – Founder and President of YouthBuild USA
  • Stuart Thorne – President and CEO of Southwire
  • Kern Williams – Year Up Boston Alumni, Working at State Street Bank

By highlighting the community and education partnerships and business best practices that are working to connect the needs of employers with the skills development of the nation’s workforce, these business leaders and young adults will share their thoughts on how such programs, if adopted on a larger scale, could bridge the nation’s growing skills gap.

Corporate Voices for Working Families is the leading national business membership organization shaping conversations and collaborations on public and corporate policy issues involving working families.  A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, we create and advance innovative policy solutions that reflect a commonality of interests among the private sector both global and domestic, government and other stakeholders.  We are a unique voice, and we provide leading and best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families while strengthening our nation’s economy and enhancing the vitality of our communities.  For more information, please visit http://www.corporatevoices.org.