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Bipartisan, bicameral Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021 introduced

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Bipartisan, bicameral Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021 introduced

Last week, the bipartisan, bicameral Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021 was introduced in an effort to ensure every young person in America has the skills needed to graduate from high school and be well-prepared for success in education, career and life. The legislation would provide funding for hands-on skills education at afterschool and summer learning programs for students starting in elementary school and progressing through middle school to high school. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act (YWRA) complements in-school support by ensuring that students are exposed to a wide array of technical education offerings at afterschool programs starting at age six. The lead co-sponsors of the legislation, which was previously introduced in the 116th Congress, are:

  • Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Senate Afterschool Caucus
  • Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)
  • Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)
  • Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  • Representative Josh Harder (D-Calif.)
  • Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.)
  • Representative Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.)
  • Representative Lisa McClain (R-Mich.)

The Youth Workforce Readiness Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3342) establishes a competitive grant through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration for eligible national, youth-serving out-of-school time organizations providing youth workforce readiness programs for youth between the ages of 6 to 18. The legislation also re-establishes Youth Councils to work in coordination with local workforce boards providing expertise in youth policy. Programs will focus on four overarching pillars that support youth workforce readiness:

  • Essential-Skill Development: Supporting social emotional development through every developmental stage in both formal and informal learning experiences.
  • Career Exposure: Targeted programming through community business partnerships, providing discovery opportunities, career assessments, planning, and insights into both traditional and non- traditional career fields.
  • Employability & Certification: Opportunities including: interviewing, resume writing, financial literacy and certifications in specific areas that will help youth land their first job.
  • Work-Based Learning: Opportunities to apply skills in real-life, hands-on work experiences through local community business partnerships.

The bill comes at a critical time for youth and workforce development. Currently there are 9.7 million out-of-work Americans in part because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and forced business closures and lockdowns. Employers are attempting to fill more than 7.4 million jobs. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover, February 2021). There are more than 4.4 million disconnected youth in America today, or about one in nine teens and young adults (11.2 percent) according to the Measure of America, Youth Disconnection, 2021. Disconnected youth are teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. Native American youth have a disconnection rate of 23.4 percent, the highest of the United States’ five major racial and ethnic groups, while Black teens and young adults have the second-highest disconnection rate, 17.4 percent, followed by Latino (12.8 percent), white (9.2 percent), and Asian (6.2 percent) young people.

COVID-19 has likely erased ten years’ progress in reducing the national youth disconnection rate in a matter of months as reported by Measure of America report on youth disconnection. And the need for skill development is clear: more than 75% of youth express concerns about whether they have the skills necessary to secure a job while only 34 percent of students strongly agree that they will graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in the job market. (Gallup, Half of College Students say their major leads to a good job, 2017). Research shows that introducing young children to the world of work helps them plan for future careers, motivates them to connect what they’re learning to future opportunities and builds self-esteem as youth feel equipped to set and achieve ambitious goals.

Congress is expected to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) this year, the federal law that governs youth and adult workforce programs. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act would ensure that future workforce development programs include a strong foundation of support for young people. The YWRA is supported by the following national organizations:

  • Afterschool Alliance
  • American Camp Association
  • American Student Assistance
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of America
  • Communities In Schools
  • Gap Inc.
  • Girl Scouts of the USA
  • The Manufacturing Institute
  • MENTOR National
  • National 4-H Council
  • National Recreation and Park Association
  • National Summer Learning Association
  • YMCA of the USA

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Afterschool policy 2019: State legislative round up

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