Young adults aged 18 to 24 experience unemployment rates that are double those in older age groups, and they have the greatest difficulty finding a job and keeping it, according to Washington’s Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board.
Meanwhile, thousands of employers in the state have said that a lack of qualified candidates has left them with no choice but to leave open positions unfilled.
Why do so many youth lack the skills they need to find and keep a job? Because they haven’t had the experience needed to acquire those skills.
It is expected that over the next five years, 740,000 new jobs will become available in Washington state. But how do we ensure that today’s youth are equipped to take those jobs?
That’s the goal of career-connected learning, which uses various means to prepare the students in our schools today with the many career opportunities available to them after they graduate.
This can be done through internships, in which youth not only gain real-world experience but also get a head start on the career paths they’re interested in. Or it’s done through registered apprenticeships, in which youth are paid to advance their skills toward specific career paths. Perhaps it’s a job shadow, where students tag along with professionals of their choice, learning about the daily operations of certain industries. Or maybe it’s a visit to a classroom by a working professional or business leader to share valuable insights and experience with tomorrow’s workforce.
The Career Connect Washington Task Force, a public-private partnership with a goal of accelerating career-connected learning, recently delivered a set of recommendations to the state’s leadership regarding specific steps to help connect today’s youth with tomorrow’s jobs. You can learn more about those recommendations in this report. In brief, the recommendations are to increase career exploration options among youth, to help teachers and counselors receive the training they need, to expand “earn while you learn” registered apprenticeships for youth, and to develop a long-term plan that builds on work already underway in Washington state to guide youth toward meaningful work.
Efforts such as YES Whatcom, which works with students, parents, employers, policy-makers, educators and like-minded organizations to encourage youth engagement in business, are a big step along the path toward ensuring that today’s youth are ready and able to succeed in the business environment, whether in Whatcom County or throughout the state.