COMBATTING VIOLENCE WITH JOBS FOR YOUTH
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, a re- cent op-ed article in the Boston Globe emphasizes the severity of the employ- ment problems facing today’s youth and its relationship to the increase in gang and gun-related violence in the Nation’s cities.
Easy access to guns and other dan- gerous weapons and the shameful prev- alence of drugs are major contributors to this problem, but so too is the lack of job opportunities available for our youth. We have failed to develop job programs that will help these youths build a future without guns and gangs.
In the Globe piece, William Spring, the distinguished former vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and a senior member of the domestic policy staff in the Carter administra- tion, and Andrew Sum of Northeastern’s Center for Labor Mar- ket Studies, argue that although we face a very real problem with youth unemployment, we can do something constructive about it. The only ques- tion is whether we have the will and the wisdom to make the investments necessary to enable our youth to seek, find, and take advantage of the job op- portunities that can transform their lives and make our communities safer and stronger.
I believe the article will be of inter- est to all of us in Congress, and I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the RECORD.
[From the Boston Globe, Apr. 5, 2007]
COMBATTING VIOLENCE WITH JOBS FOR YOUTHS
(By William Spring and Andrew Sum)
During the past few weeks, attention has been focused on the rise in fatal shootings and gang-related activities in Boston. Gov- ernor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino recently announced joint ef- forts to combat gang violence, including an expansion in youth summer jobs. Renewed public policy attention to youth labor mar- ket problems in Boston and the state is clearly warranted. While the overall number of jobs has increased over the past few years, the labor market for teenagers in both the nation and state has remained extraor- dinarily weak.
Employment rates for the nation’s and state’s teens (age 16–19) in 2005 and 2006 were the lowest in the past 50 years. Male high school students and dropouts across the state have found it particularly difficult to find work over the past six years, often in- creasing their involvement in gang and criminal activities.
To make matters worse, job opportunities for high school youths are distributed un- evenly across key demographic and socio- economic groups. In 2005, white high school youths were twice as likely to work as black youths and 40 percent more likely than His-
panic youths. The need for a concerted set of public policy responses both short-term and long-term is needed.
A variety of favorable educational, social, and labor market outcomes can be generated from an expansion of in-school work oppor- tunities for high school students, especially those from race-ethnic minority and low-in- come groups.
National research has shown that minority and low-income youths who work in high school are less likely to drop out than their peers who do not work. Students with jobs that offer work-based learning opportunities are more likely to see the relevance of school curriculum to future job performance and remain more committed to their school work.
Teenage women who live in local areas that provide more job opportunities to them are less likely to become pregnant, and male teens are less likely to become involved with the criminal justice system. National, state, and local research also consistently reveals that work in high school facilitates the tran- sition to the labor market upon graduation and increases the annual earnings of youth in their late teens and early 20s.
There are a variety of workforce develop- ment strategies that can be pursued to boost employment opportunities for high school students during the regular school year and the summer.
First, the hiring of professional staff to work with students and employers to create work-based learning opportunities, paid in- ternships, and regular job opportunities is important, especially for youth from low-in- come families and those whose parents do not work. Job brokering services of these ca- reer specialists also can broaden the range of jobs by industry and occupation to which high school students can be exposed.
At a minimum, maintaining last year’s in- creased funding for the existing Connecting Activities Program at $7 million can help local Workforce Investment Boards increase the hiring of staff to work with students and employers to improve teen job prospects. The governor and Legislature should jointly support an increase in funding for such con- necting activities and demand strong ac- countability for performance.
Second, employers who provide work-based learning opportunities and wages for stu- dents in school-to-career programs should re- ceive tax credits for their hiring and training of high school students. Many employers provide important staff support and in-kind contributions to such programs and should be rewarded for their efforts.
Third, the governor should encourage all state agencies to promote the hiring of high school students during the summer months, and more of the state’s mayors and town managers should follow the lead of Menino in promoting the hiring of their high school students by the private sector.
Fourth, the state should adopt a youth ap- prenticeship program similar to that of the state of Wisconsin’s and more aggressively promote apprenticeship training under the existing system in our state. Young workers in Wisconsin can receive youth apprentice- ship training in up to 21 occupational fields under the state’s system, thereby providing employers with access to young skilled workers in a structured work/training sys- tem.
Massachusetts should aim to become a na- tional leader in both the employment and training of its high school students and out- of-school youth. A more successful youth employment and training system can help promote the future growth and quality of
our state’s resident labor force and help stem high levels of out-migration.