California economy hurt by rising number of disconnected youth

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

Number of disconnected youth in California grew by 200,000 since 2000. (Photo Credit: Violeta Vaqueiro)

To get your brain flexing this morning, here a few numbers to mull over and if you’re a numbers person, you’ll probably find these pretty good:

Nine – California is the world’s ninth largest economy; 10.1 percent is the state’s unemployment rate, as of November; and One – California has been adding more jobs than any other state in the nation, overall.

Not too bad. 

Now here’s another one: 850,000. That’s the number of young people ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working, heading towards chronic underemployment as adults and failing to gain the skills employers need for the 21st century, according to a new report released by KIDS COUNT and produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Nationwide there are 6.5 million.

Since 2000, the number of school aged youth in the state who are neither working nor taking classes has grown by 200,000, or 35 percent, just higher than the national average.

Now those are NOT numbers we should be proud of nor should we be writing home about, but it’s simply a California reality.

According to the report, these young folks, often described as “disconnected youth” are facing greater competition from older workers for increasingly fewer entry-level jobs and many lack the higher skill set required for the well-paying jobs that are available. This group won’t graduate from high school on time and therefore, won’t attend college, further worsening their chances for job opportunities.

The report goes on to say that the lack of education, opportunity and connection to school or work has long-term implications including becoming a big cost to taxpayers, as government spends more to support them.

“All young people need opportunities to gain work experience and build the skills that are essential to being successful as an adult,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Foundation. “Ensuring youth are prepared for the high –skilled jobs available in today’s economy must be a national priority, for the future of our workforce and the strength of our nation as a whole.”

The California Community Colleges has been working with the business community and educators up and down the state to align their programs to better prepare students for jobs available now.  This has been done through their Critical Conversations.

The CCC has also supported employer sponsored earn-and-learn programs.

“For these students, education alone may not be sufficient relevance. We need to have more earn and learn strategies, like apprenticeships, where these individuals can be brought into the workforce and we build their skills in partnership with their employers,” said Von Ton-Quinlivan, Vice Chancellor of workforce and economic development, California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

“No one sector or system can solve this problem alone-it demands collective and collaborative effort,” said Patrice Cromwell, director of economic development at the Casey Foundation. “Business, government, philanthropy and communities must work together with young people to help them develop the skills and experience they need to achieve long term success.”

It’s just those sort of partnerships the Summit’s SMART Workforce Action Team is working on by identifying regional partnerships and getting funding for new ones that can address skills issues like the problem of disconnected youth.


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza