Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) today announced key provisions from their legislation to help increase employment among at-risk youth passed Congress as part of a bipartisan, bicameral deal – the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – which reauthorizes federal job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The 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.”
“By focusing on the unique and specific job training and skills development needs of America’s youth, we are putting them on a stronger path to long-term employment. In turn, we are creating healthier, more sustainable communities,” Congressman Fattah said. “The future of our economy depends on an educated, skilled workforce that encompasses all individuals—even the most disconnected and at-risk. I’m proud of this bipartisan effort that places a top priority on providing our youth the support and programs they need to be successful.”
“The decade-plus wait for congressional renewal of the nation’s preeminent job training legislation was a long time coming, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Chaka Fattah are to be commended for their tenacity, commitment and leadership in creating a bi-partisan bill, which incorporates crucial components of the Urban Jobs Act, that will create a better life for urban youth and youth of color, and shepherding it through to passage,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.
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 now included in the WIOA legislation passed by both chambers 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 House and Senate with bipartisan support, WIOA now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.