|At left, Sen. Tim Scott speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photograph by Gage Skidmore. At right, Sen. Cory Booker speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol. Photograph courtesy Sen. Booker's office.|
Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the “Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act” to the 115th Congress on February 15. The act provides employers with tax credits of up to $1,500 for each eligible apprentice they hire under the program.
Both Scott and Booker have professed deep interests in engaging youth. At Restoring the American Dream, an event hosted by Opportunity Nation on the day of the bill’s release, Scott and Booker spoke to the need to connect youth with opportunities.
“Too often, especially with young people, we tend to look down to the lowest level of expectation,” Scott said.
“It’s not the wealth of our wealthiest that makes our nation great. It’s how we provide pathways for every single child," Booker said. "My father was born poor, segregated environment, single mom…(but the) people who came into his life gave him a little bit of love, a little bit of support, a little bit of a hand up.”
Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) also spoke at the event, saying she felt a responsibility for helping people to “realize where the opportunities are” and “plug in.”
These efforts show impressive results. The organization Year Up participated in a panel at the event to discuss its one-year post-high school program model that pairs six months of technical and professional skill building with a six-month internship. Research show 85 percent of Year Up participants find full-time employment, with an average starting wage of $18 an hour.
Connecting students to opportunities to practice professional skills and gain work experience is a practice familiar to afterschool programs across the country. Training and experience are valuable across age categories. The people, businesses, programs, governments, and systems that recognize the value of these youth and connect them to opportunities and skills continue to see great returns—economic, social, relational—over and over again.