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After recession, youth employment outlook needs work

December 4, 2012
The Mining Journal

A non-profit group's report that trickled out of Lansing Monday passed a great many people nearly unnoticed. But its one that should serve as a clarion call to action because it relates to our children.

According to "Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," the percentage of Michigan residents ages 16-24 who were unemployed and not in college increased from 13 to 17 percent between 2000 and 2011, The Associated Press reported. For Michigan, the employment rates were 29 percent for those 16 to 19 and 59 percent for those 20 to 24. Together, 45 percent of those 16 to 24 had jobs in Michigan in 2011, down from 67 percent in 2000, said AP. That ads up to 220,000 people and nothing suggests that the trend is slowing, even a little.

Although there are a multitude of potential fixes to this problem, which is a nationwide one, the cause seems apparent: The Great Recession. So many people in the state of Michigan - and indeed across the country - lost their jobs in the in the economic downturn, the starter positions that often went to young people in the past are now being taken by older, and much more experienced, workers.

That means many fewer employment opportunities for youth, harming families and communities and setting into motion a dynamic that ultimately will make it harder for younger workers to have successful careers.

The Michigan League for Public policy, which authored the report, suggested the followed remedies: National policymakers must develop a youth employment strategy that mobilizes public and private institutions together to tackle this issue; greater coordination among financial supporters for youth assistance programs; replication of successful efforts such as the National Guard Youth Challenge in Battle Creek; and employers stepping up to offer career pathways and jobs for young people.

Certainly reasonable people can agree that something needs to be done to address this problem. But with Democrats and Republicans inside the Beltway unable to come to terms on the time of day anymore, the prospects for cooperation on something like this seem bleak.

This is where decisive political leadership is needed. We wonder if there is any left in Washington.



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