WASHINGTON – Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to a study released Monday.
Thats almost 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24 who have neither desk nor job, according to the Opportunity Nation coalition, which wrote the report.
Other studies have shown that idle young adults are missing out on a window to build skills they will need later in life or use the knowledge they acquired in college. Without those experiences, they are less likely to command higher salaries and more likely to be an economic drain on their communities.
This is not a group that we can write off. They just need a chance, said Mark Edwards, executive director of the coalition of businesses, advocacy groups, policy experts and nonprofit organizations dedicated to increasing economic mobility. The tendency is to see them as lost souls and see them as unsavable. They are not.
But changing the dynamic is not going to be easy.
The coalition also finds that 49 states have seen an increase in the number of families living in poverty and 45 states have seen household median incomes fall in the last year. The dour report underscores the challenges young adults face now and foretell challenges they are likely to face as they get older.
A young persons community is often closely tied to his or her success. The Opportunity Nation report tracked 16 factors – Internet access, college graduation rates, income inequality and public safety among them – and identified states that were doing well for its young people.
Topping the list of supportive states are Vermont, Minnesota and North Dakota. At the bottom? Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico.
Indiana ranked 34th.
Their destiny is too often determined by their ZIP code, said Charlie Mangiardi, who works with Year Up, a nonprofit that trains young adults for careers and helps them find jobs.
We have the supply. We dont have a lack of young people who need this opportunity, Mangiardi added.
Just look at some of the nations largest cities. Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Riverside, Calif., all have more than 100,000 idle youth, the Opportunity Nation report found. Often times they lack the social capital in life, Mangiardi said. Theres a whole pool of talent that is motivated, loyal and hardworking.
They just cant get through an employers door, he added.
Thats why Year Up spends a year working with high school graduates to teach them career skills such as computer programming or equipment repair they can use when the program ends. It also includes life coaching so they can learn skills such as time management. More than 4,500 young adults have completed the program and 84 percent of them have found work.