Media Highlights

U.S. Youth Employment is Key to Expanding Opportunity

by Russell Krumnow   •  

Equal access to opportunity for all Americans is the defining issue of our time, one that has been gathering momentum, bipartisan support and urgency in recent years. Now is the time to act.

One of the most immediate and powerful ways to expand upward mobility is to dramatically improve education and employment prospects for young people. Today, there are 5.6 million youth who are disconnected from school and work and millions more who lack meaningful pathways to education and careers. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high — twice the national average. At the same time, many employers say the inability to find qualified workers is their biggest obstacle to growth.

The American economy demands a workforce equipped with the degrees, certificates and skills that are required to maintain our global competitiveness and support flourishing communities where we live. Starting today, every one of us can work together and take concrete steps to ensure our youth are thriving in their jobs, schools and neighborhoods. Generated by the experience of our diverse, cross-sector coalition and an extensive listening tour with key partners, Opportunity Nation is releasing our plan to tackle the U.S. youth employment crisis: We Got This.

Each of us has a role to play for every one of the actions listed below: young adults and community leaders; educational institutions; employers; policymakers and elected officials; nonprofits and philanthropies.

TRAIN young adults through work-based learning experiences.

HIRE youth and increase employer demand for wider pipelines of young talent.

MENTOR youth through work-based, service learning or civic engagement experiences that impart transferrable skills, leadership and social capital. 

GRADUATE youth by dramatically increasing the number of young people who receive a post-secondary credential while continuing to boost high school graduation rates and student skill levels.

REVIVE opportunity by capitalizing on bipartisan support for criminal justice reform. Support programs and policy designed to help young, nonviolent offenders get on paths to careers and stable, productive lives.

More than 1,000 cross-sector leaders, including 300 young adults, are attending the third National Opportunity Summit in Washington DC today, joining Summit co-conveners the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Jobs for America’s Graduates, Business Roundtable and United Way Worldwide as well as Opportunity Nation’s diverse coalition and other partners who are committed to tackling the urgent issues of youth employment and engagement. Democratic and Republican elected officials are sharing the stage, underscoring the need for true collaboration and cooperation across all sectors and political parties to achieve our goal: helping millions of young Americans embark on meaningful pathways that lead to economic security and thriving communities – their fair shot at the American Dream.

Summit participants and many more who cannot attend the event are committed to advancing the actions laid out in We Got This in myriad ways. These include exciting new investments in workforce training by major employers; fresh data on regions with high concentrations of youth who are disconnected from school and work; revamped federal laws to update career and technical education and overhaul the criminal justice system; and innovative programs and approaches that are connecting teens and young adults to mentors, schools and jobs.

Helping young Americans get ahead is not simply altruistic — it improves their lifetime earnings, connects employers with the workforce they need, and supports long-term economic growth. When our youth do well, we all do well.

Young people bring energy, creativity, loyalty, comfort with technology and other strengths in abundance. They just need an opportunity. And we need all our talent on the field.

Each of us has a role to play. Guided by solutions that work across the country — from cities and suburbs to rural settings and tribal lands — this is how we become a true opportunity nation for the rising generation.

Together, we got this.

Russell Krumnow Russell Krumnow is the Managing Director of Opportunity Nation and works with more than 350 partner organizations to advance policy change and community actions that expand economic opportunity across the country. Read Russell's bio.

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