Campaign For Tomorrow’s Workforce:
Goals, Vision, Principles
The Campaign for Tomorrow’s Workforce (CTW) is a coalition of organizations and leaders committed to envisioning, championing, and building a system to solve the crisis of “disconnected” young adults aged 16 to 24 who are not in school nor engaged in work.
Young people represent an important part of our City’s present and future. Yet close to 1 in 5 young adults are currently out of school and out of work. These young people – notably young men of color from economically disadvantaged backgrounds – are at high risk of becoming permanently disengaged from the labor market, threatening their ability to break out of the cycle of poverty. And every New Yorker has a stake in the struggle; when our young lack the skills that local industries need and are unable to support themselves, the cost is borne by all of us.
But a great opportunity is hidden within this civic crisis. In the coming decades, the combination of industry growth and an aging workforce will produce sizeable new openings in the labor market. Young adults with the skills to compete for these jobs will be well positioned to seize this opportunity, obtain employment, and contribute to their families and the larger economy – to become “tomorrow’s workforce”. We cannot afford to waste their energy, talent, and potential.
For this to happen, developing a solution must be a top priority for all of us. This document represents a vision for how New York City can begin to take on this challenge.
To advance public policy, legislative, and programmatic solutions, transform existing policies, and urge for the increased investment needed to build and sustain a coordinated, high-quality, at-scale system of programs and services to prepare “disconnected” young adults ages 16-24, to succeed in the future workforce.
What Do We Want For Our Young People?
In New York City approximately 170,000 to 200,000 young adults aged 16 to 24 are not in school, nor working. About half of these young people do not have a high school diploma or equivalent, and almost all of them have insufficient skills and little or no work experience. But they are not beyond hope. With the right set of supports, opportunities, and services, disconnected youth can transform their lives and reset their life trajectories. Given some help, motivation, training, and time, these young adults can complete high school or a GED, enter a training program, have an internship or stipended first job, and embark on to college or a career.
The following are important elements that favor a successful transition to adulthood:
- A high school diploma or GED
- The ability to earn a wage and support themselves and their families
- The opportunity to enroll in post-secondary education or vocational training programs
- Positive workforce experiences, with accompanying “hard” and “soft” skills developed through training and work
- Personal connections and supportive services to enable individuals to overcome the life barriers they may face.
An effective system must ensure that young people have viable opportunities to achieve all of the above.
The Right Service for Every Youth at the Right Time
Young adults who have exited the education system unprepared for the workforce vary widely in their levels of work readiness and academic achievement. Some may have acquired perilously few high school credits while others may have already achieved a diploma. Young people in both groups can be equally far away from even a basic grasp of the workplace skills and norms required to hold down a job (see sidebar).
The system we need must meet the needs of each young adult at their own stage of readiness – regardless of how many years of school they have completed or how ready they are for the world of work. For some, that means reconnection to the education system, which now offers promising new opportunities through the Department of Education’s Multiple Pathways to Graduation and Alternative Schools and Programs (District 79) offices, though these too must be scaled up to meet the demand for these services.
For others, particularly those young people with too few skills and too little time for high school completion, current services are scarce, thinly funded, and often disconnected in their own right. Turning this around – building the right combination of effective programs with the resources, capacity, and interconnections required to dramatically change young people’s lives – is the “invention challenge” that stands before us.
We have strong examples of programs that are striving to work with young adults toward these goals, but these programs have limited capacity and are few and far between. Still, they can serve as models from which to build a system that must be solidly grounded in the best principles and practices of youth development and have the ability to embrace young people where they are and take them to where they need to go.
Program and System Characteristics
A system of programs and services that effectively meets the needs of young adults must include the following elements:
Use of Effective Practices
- High standards of quality. All aspects of program and system design, financing, implementation and evaluation support the highest standards of quality and continuous improvement.
- Educational and workforce services offered within a strong youth development framework. Organizations that have the capacity to help young adults improve both their employability and their life skills are poised to have more powerful impacts on the people they serve. This includes, most importantly, a purposeful focus on the strengths and talents that each young person brings to the table.
- Sustained, supportive one-on-one relationships between youth and adults that underpin service delivery. Programs must offer effective programs to help young people build relationships that support them to stay on track, develop personal goals and aspirations, address barriers, and manage family responsibilities. Program environments that are small in size are more conducive to the development of supportive staff-participant relationships.
Capacity and Scale
- Sufficient resources to both expand service slots and raise the quality of staff, training, curriculum and program development, and evaluation. The system must get both bigger and better if we are to truly address this challenge.
Linking to Careers
- Full engagement with the demand side of the workforce equation. Both by looking to currently disconnected young adults as potential workers and by informing what services and training opportunities should be available, employers can offer tremendous value to programs and service providers. Young people need to be prepared to meet the real challenges of the future jobs they will hold.
Partnership and Coordination
- Partnerships among community organizations, business, government, schools, and colleges – and with youth participants and their families. All parties involved must agree upon and work toward a shared set of outcomes. Strong institutional relationships can address critical capacity issues within each institution, melding educational and workforce expertise with youth development and counseling know-how. We must create a cohesive, comprehensive, and user-friendly system of services in each neighborhood.