The Obama administration, in its budget request due out next week, is including a multibillion-dollar ask to help bolster job opportunities for young people, including high school students.
The proposal calls for $3.5 billion for new partnerships between companies and communities to help a million young people find work, and $2 billion for community partnerships to help students who have dropped out of high school—or who are at risk of dropping out—get a diploma and connect to jobs and internships. Plus, it includes $200 million for youth apprenticeships, including classroom-based training.
That’s a tall order for a Congress that’s been trying to scale back spending. In fact lawmakers mostly rejected a similar (and smaller) request last year. Administration officials said there’s bipartisan interest in this issue and that the program is paid for in the budget. (They declined to explain just how.)
First jobs—and summer employment—can help shape students’ future career path, John B. King Jr., the acting U.S. Secretary of Education told reporters Wednesday. One of his earliest jobs was working in a summer camp in a high-needs community in Boston—and that lead him to his future career as a teacher, he said.
Plus, he added, summer jobs can help divert young people from other activities—including crime.
But, there isn’t as much availability as there should be, he said. In fact, the past 12 years have seen a 40 percent decline in youth employment opportunities.
“Investments now will see high future returns,” King said.
The administration is taking at least one step right away, creating a $20 million “Summer Jobs and Beyond” competitive-grant program from existing Department of Labor of funds to connect young people (those ages 16 through 24) with summer and year-round job opportunities. The grants will go to about 10 communities, with priority given to those that have high rates of unemployment, poverty, and high school dropouts.
What’s more, the White House is planning to host a workshop on Feb. 26 to bring together state leaders, local leaders, community-based organizations, philanthropies and others to connect on summer youth employment. At the event, the administration will release a Summer Opportunity Federal Resource Guide to help local governments and non-profits navigate the different federal programs aimed at this issue.
As for the broader proposal, it may face long odds—but it could help inform the next administration’s policies. Job training—including for youth—has bubbled up on the presidential campaign trail.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is running for the Democratic nomination, for example, has talked about apprenticeships. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a GOP contender, has called in debates for a focus on vocational education. Real estate mogul Donald Trump, another Republican contender... hired young people on his reality show, The Apprentice.