America’s Future Workforce’s Pathways Program was developed to serve the Opportunity Youth in Washington, D.C. and its surrounding area. Opportunity Youth are defined as young adults aged 16-24 who are neither in school or work. Some refer to them as “disconnected” or “idle”, and the data surrounding this group paints a grim portrait.
The Cost of Inaction
It is estimated that there are 6.7 million Opportunity Youth in the United States with minorities, urban youth, and immigrant youth qualifying for this classification at significantly higher rates than any other group. Fiscally, these youth are often understood by the financial resources that are both lost and spent in order to support them. Many different components comprise this economic burden, some examples being lost tax revenue, public expenditures on crime, and welfare support programs. For these examples alone, it is estimated that Opportunity Youth represent a loss of $11.3 billion tax dollars and expenditures of $76.7 billion and $2.9 billion respectively on crime and welfare.
The total social burden, which takes into account all resources affected no matter the source of the resource, of the 6.7 million Opportunity Youth across their lifetime is estimated to fall at $4.7 trillion. Each individual Opportunity Youth currently imposes a lump sum cost of $235,680 to taxpayers.
The Needs of Opportunity Youth
At America’s Future Workforce, we believe that all people should have access to opportunity. Our Pathways Program strives to connect Opportunity Youth with a career path that will lead them to economic success. While we recognize the significance of the numbers reported above, we focus on each individual and provide training and connections necessary to build fulfilling careers. Research has indicated the largest challenges to connecting Opportunity Youth with job opportunities include:
Reliable transportation to and from work
Sufficient socio-emotional or behavioral skills
Sufficient occupational skills or occupational credentials
Secondary and Postsecondary Attainment
Despite the challenges Opportunity Youth face on a daily basis, these youth are very optimistic, and want to achieve financial independence, but are unable to be part of formal training opportunities, internship experiences, and career counseling to meet their needs. The key findings of a study includes:
of Opportunity Youth would like to find gainful employment and a well-paying career
of Opportunity Youth would like to make a difference improving life for others
Pathways Program Design
America’s Future Workforce designed the Pathways Program to specifically address these and many other common barriers facing Opportunity Youth. All fellows who join America’s Future Workforce have access to the following programming to support their development into highly employable workers:
Guidance on further education, whether that be obtaining a GED, a Certification, an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, or beyond
Small group counseling sessions aimed at teaching communication skills, socio-emotional coping mechanisms, and behavioral regulation techniques
Case Management to address personal barriers to employment such as assistance with public transportation or access to childcare
Career Workshops providing concrete workplace and job search skills
Career Specific Technical Training
The Economic Outcomes
America’s Future Workforce’s Pathways program has a direct and measurable impact on the economic success of the individuals who complete our program. Their effort and abilities combined with our resources and programming change the course of their career path for the rest of their lives. The positive changes that America’s Future Workforce creates in individual’s lives also has a measurable impact on the economic burden of Opportunity Youth. By providing Opportunity Youth the skills and experience necessary to find economic success, America’s Future Workforce reconnects these youths to the labor force and effectively relieves their share of the economic burden. The local workforce also reaps the rewards of having more qualified and capable workers to fill their vacancies.
The application to the Pathways Program can be found here.