Job prospects shrink for Mich. teens, young adults

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Michigan has 220,000 teens and young adults who are neither in school nor working and who face serious barriers to successful careers, according to a nonprofit group's report released Monday.

The report "Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity" says that in 2000, 13 percent of Michigan residents ages 16 to 24 were jobless and not enrolled in school. That rose to 17 percent, or 220,000, by 2011, the report says.

The number of teens and young adults who are working has been on the decline nationwide, according to the report. It says only 26 percent of those ages 16 to 19 and only 61 percent of those ages 20 to 24 were working last year.

For Michigan, the employment rates were 29 percent for those 16 to 19 and 59 percent for those 20 to 24, it said. Together, 45 percent of those 16 to 24 had jobs in Michigan in 2011, down from 67 percent in 2000.

"With fewer jobs in our state and so many experienced workers searching for jobs, the opportunities for youth are especially diminished," Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy, said in a statement. "The doors to a financially successful future are closed to many young people in our state."

The lack of so-called starter jobs means darker horizons for Michigan young people who lack training and education, the report says.

"The world is changing, and more highly skilled workers are needed," said Gilda Jacobs, president and chief executive of the Michigan League for Public Policy. "Though improving, our education and workforce systems are not keeping pace."

The declining employment prospects for young people harms others as well, Zehnder-Merrell said.

"Families and communities are hurt by this, too, and neither the state nor the federal government has developed a cohesive plan to provide disconnected youth with opportunities to complete their education or obtain job experience," she said.

The report's recommendations include:

- National policymakers developing a youth employment strategy "that mobilizes public and private institutions together to tackle this issue."

- Greater coordination among financial supporters for youth assistance programs.

- Replication of successful efforts such as the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe in Battle Creek.

- Employers stepping up to offer "career pathways and jobs for young people."


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