Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says key provisions from her legislation to help increase employment among at-risk youth have passed the Senate as part of the bipartisan, bicameral deal, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which reauthorizes federal job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Senator Gillibrand’s Urban Jobs Act would provide federal funding to nonprofit organizations, allowing them to carry out programming to prepare youth for employment, particularly those who have dropped out of high school or have been subject to the criminal justice process.
“Supporting education and training for our youth is a smart investment that can help rebuild local economies and pay dividends over the long term,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This effort would give organizations the tools and resources they need to help our youth prepare for future jobs, find employment opportunities, and reach their full potential. The skills they would acquire through this program are invaluable. Helping our youth compete in this difficult economy will have a lasting, positive impact on our community.”
“We commend Senator Gillibrand for her unwavering commitment to creating a path to a better life for urban youth and youth of color through the skills training and support services supported by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA),” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “By shepherding through this bipartisan measure, which incorporates crucial components of the Urban Jobs Act, Senator Gillibrand demonstrates the kind of character and leadership so desperately needed from our elected leaders.”
At more than 13 percent, the youth unemployment rate is more than twice the unemployment rate for people of all ages. The average unemployment rate for minority youth in May was almost 24 percent for African Americans and just over 12 percent for Hispanics. Approximately 5.8 million youth, or nearly 15 percent of 16 to 24 year olds, are neither employed nor attending school, and as a result not developing the skills, education and job experience necessary for quality jobs.
Lengthy periods of unemployment early in a young person’s work life can have lasting negative effects on future earnings, productivity, and employment opportunities. Developing policies such as those proposed under the Urban Jobs Act and included in the Senate-passed WIOA would assist youth in obtaining the education and skills necessary for success in the labor market, helping reduce youth unemployment and strengthen the economy.
The Urban Jobs Act proposals contained within WIOA include focusing youth program services on assisting out-of-school youth, including youth who have been subject to the criminal justice process, through high school dropout recovery efforts and attainment of recognized post-secondary credentials that are often necessary for securing good-paying jobs. As proposed in the Urban Jobs Act, WIOA also makes national and local community-based organizations or intermediaries eligible for grants or pay-for-performance contracts, in partnership with workforce investment boards, to provide programming focused on improving the education and training of youth. Funding would be used to provide a comprehensive set of services that includes educational programming, such as skills assessment, reading and math remediation, educational enrichment, General Education Development (GED) credential preparation, and post-secondary education and well as employment and job readiness activities, including mentoring, internships, on-the-job training, occupational skills training, job placement in unsubsidized jobs, and personal development.
After passing the Senate with bipartisan support, WIOA will move next to the House for consideration.