Andrew Sum, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University and Paul Harrington, Director, Center for Labor Markets and Policy, Drexel University, writing for the Huffington Post, offered their own version of a progressive State of the Union address that President Obama should have offered last week:
“Our nation’s teenagers and many young adults ages 20-29 are working at a considerably lower rate today than at any time since the end of World War Two. Absence of work experience in the teen years and early 20s prevents our youth from acquiring marketable occupational skills, solid work habits, the soft skills demanded by employers, and opportunities to interact with adults and observe the skills and behaviors needed to succeed at work. Absence of early work experience will reduce their employment, wages, and training opportunities in their mid 20s. These problems are not confined to young adults lacking college degrees. Too many of our new college graduates are left either jobless or holding jobs that do not utilize the skills and knowledge that they acquired in college, reducing the return on their human capital investments and those of society.
A variety of actions are needed to improve the employment prospects of these young workers. We will work with states and local workforce development boards to expand internship opportunities and paid employment of high school students both year round and during the summer, increase the hiring of career specialists to prepare them to make the transition from high school to the world of work, and work with the nation’s employers to expand new youth apprenticeship opportunities, and provide subsidized employment in the summer for the nation’s jobless at-risk youth. We also will experiment with employer wage subsidies to promote the full-time employment of out-of-school youth, and we shall work with colleges and universities to provide additional internships and cooperative education positions for our college students to facilitate their transition to the labor market upon graduation.”