By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s youth employment rate, at around 50 percent for those aged 16 to 24, is following in what is being called a dangerous trend of declining against a still struggling economy, according to a new Kids Count report from the Annie B. Casey Foundation.
The employment rate for Rhode Island teens fell over the last decade from 63 percent in 2000 and nationally youth employment is at its lowest level since World War II without about 50 percent of young people holding jobs across the country last year.
“All young people need opportunities to gain work experience and build the skills that are essential to being successful as an adult,” Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation, said in a statement. “Ensuring youth are prepared for the high-skilled jobs available in today’s economy must be a national priority, for the sake of their future roles as citizens and parents, the future of our workforce and the strength of our nation as a whole.”
The Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity report, released Monday, also concentrated on what it defines as disconnected youth – those aged 16 to 24 who are out of work and out of school.
Nationally, an average of 13 percent of youth aged 16 to 19 not in school also were without employment and 20 percent of those aged 20 to 24 found themselves in the same situation last year.
In Rhode Island, according to additional information provided by Rhode Island Kids Count and not included in the foundation report, 15 percent of Rhode Islanders age 16 to 24 are out of school and out of work.
That is actually a decline from the 18 percent rate reported for 2008 to 2009 by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce but
The national Kids Count report points to an increasingly competitive job market and changing economic drivers for taking away what once were readily available positions for youth who were not in school including those in factory manufacturing, small business and neighborhood stores, the construction field and even fast-food restaurants.
A lack of education, opportunity and connection to school or work could leave disconnected youth financial unstable and without employment prospects long term.
The report’s major recommendations were implementing a national youth employment strategy, aligning resources among public and private funders, exploring new job creation strategies, and employer-sponsored earn-and-learn programs.
“School and work helps teens and young adults acquire the skills, knowledge, and support they need to become productive adults,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, in a statement. “With Rhode Island’s overall unemployment rate currently over 10 percent, it is crucial that our state continue to implement proven strategies that connect youth to work and school.”
Overall, Rhode Island youth ages 16 to 19 had a 32 percent employment rate and those aged 20 to 24 had a 65 percent employment rate for 2011.