As the country still struggles with the effects of the Great Recession, employment opportunities for less-seasoned workers are the hardest to find. Without prior job experience, teenagers face particularly bleak prospects. The current level of unemployment for teenagers is at an all-time high. Yesterday, Jobs for America’s Graduates, a non-profit organization, convened several governors, corporate executives and organization leaders to brainstorm ways to boost academic and economic outcomes for high-risk youth in the midst of the unemployment crisis.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan kicked off the event by reiterating a point that he frequently makes: successful local programs need to be taken to scale. When an attendee asked how to prepare high school students beyond academia, Duncan pointed to “great” Career Technical Education (CTE) and early college programs as ways to make school more relevant to students. Though the Secretary acknowledges the benefits of CTE, states and localities scramble to prepare for major funding cuts to CTE effective later this year.
A staffer from Senator Harkin’s office commented that Senators are now working on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to better leverage government resources and increase alignment between programs. He noted that many Senators were struck by the results of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that identified many areas of wasteful spending due to program overlap.
Speaker Boehner’s Assistant on Policy echoed that Republican Members feel justified in making cuts to job training programs because of the GAO report. She also stated that Perkins is not on the schedule for review in the near future.
Panelists and participants agreed that skilled positions must be presented as respectable career options for students. Many followed Duncan’s suggestions to replicate best practices, and some suggested that states make high-impact practices mandatory. Other ideas included: increasing service learning opportunities, raising the compulsory age for dropping out from age 16, and including graduation rates as an accountability measure. Though CTE was not a central part of the conversation, most participants agreed that job training and education, key aspects of CTE, must be further integrated.