Congressional Briefing on Youth Unemployment

The current buzzword in Washington is ‘jobs’ – both what killed them and how to create more.  One aspect of the unemployment problem that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves is the crisis of jobless youth. The Education Fund reminded Congress about the particular sources and consequences of America’s massive youth unemployment at its June 21, 2011, Capitol Hill briefing, one of our monthly series of Congressional briefings.

The speakers both defined the magnitude of the problem and offered concrete solutions. Dr. Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, provided a sobering report on the intractable nature of this recession’s unemployment– including youth unemployment. While layoff rates are returning to pre-recession levels, she noted, hiring rates remain too low to bring down the jobless rate. If this trend continues, she said, the generation of youth born between 1984 and 1998 could become a lost generation, competing amongst themselves and older workers for jobs that don’t exist.

Shierholz provided important background information for the next four presenters as well as for the audience of Congressional staffers and progressive activists that filled the meeting room in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Generously sharing experiences from his own life, Reese Neader, Policy Director at the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, enlightened the audience as to how difficult it is for youth with no formal education beyond high school to find jobs that pay well in today’s economy. By dint of hard work and targeted government programs, Neader overcame his personal hardships and secured a productive position in the workforce.  But he has not forgotten his time unemployed and underemployed and continues to work so that others will not face the same struggles.

Kisha Bird, Senior Policy Analyst for the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and Veronica Nolan, Executive Director at the Urban Alliance, offered lively descriptions of the work their organizations do to help lower the youth unemployment rate. CLASP focuses on fighting for legislation that addresses youth unemployment in a comprehensive way by addressing issues like education, justice, and child welfare.

Nolan’s organization matches underprivileged D.C. and Baltimore high school seniors with real-world paid internships. The program has been a great success in its 15 years, with its 600 student clients maintaining a 100% high school graduation rate and a 60% graduation rate from college.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, closed the briefing with an energetic discussion of the future.  Rev. Yearwood argued that America had moved beyond the civil rights movement for political equality and entered a “silver rights” struggle for economic opportunity.  Without greater emphasis on job creation for young people, he warned, there would grow an economic generation gap, breeding resentment and conflict between young and old.  But Rev. Yearwood nonetheless closed the proceedings on a positive note, reminding the audience that young people “might be out of work… we are not out of hope.”

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As always, the ADA Ed Fund is grateful to Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey and her staff for their assistance in reserving space and helping to coordinate these monthly briefings.  For more information on upcoming events, please visit our ADA Education Fund Facebook page.


Source of the image used above is  the Economist Policy Institute.




ADA Education Fund Congressional Briefings: Youth Unemployment Crisis from ADA & ADA Ed Fund on Vimeo

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ADA Education Fund

The ADA Education Fund is an independent, charitable entity that focuses on increasing public awareness through education and community organizing that builds capacity for change. The Ed Fund produces periodic policy briefs, hosts progressive speakers on a range of issues, sponsors advocacy and research fellowships, and works to expand civic participation through community organizing around economic and social justice issues.