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Employment of youth remains stagnant despite strong regional economy, says local report
Teens today don't work. Whether that's because they have to focus 25-hour days on extracurriculars for a chance at affording college, or because of the low unemployment rate across the board, organizations in Multnomah and Clackamas counties are looking into it.
Three regional Portland and Southwest Washington workforce development boards recently released a commissioned 2018 Opportunity Youth Report, finding 30,000 youth ages 16 to 24 are not in school nor working.
The three make up the partnership called Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative (CWWC): nonprofit Clackamas Workforce Partnership, nonprofit Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) and nonprofit Worksystems, the development board for the City of Portland, Multnomah and Washington counties.
Regionally, the economy added nearly 71,000 jobs between 2014 and 2016, but the study said the share and number of opportunity youth — defined as those aged 16 to 24 who are not working nor enrolled in school in the six-county area— over the same period in the region remain stagnant.
"Many young people in our region face persistent barriers to employment and it is imperative that we help them get on a pathway to a self-sustaining career," said Worksystems Executive Director Andrew McGough. "Our SummerWorks youth employment program and Connect2Careers jobs portal are two ways we are helping youth get the training and work experience they need."
The report found that opportunity youth are becoming more diverse: in 2014, 30 percent of opportunity youth were people of color. As of 2016, that share rose to 42 percent.
"Knowing the barriers these young people face enables us to connect with partners to identify service gaps and resources within our community needed by these youth," said Jeanne Bennett, CEO of Workforce Southwest Washington.
The report assists the organizations in designing programs and services to strategically reconnect these young people to post-secondary education and career-track employment.
"Our schools, partners and youth service providers have done great work to keep students engaged, and re-engage disconnected youth," said Bridget Dazey, executive director of Clackamas Workforce Partnership. "We have to keep this momentum going to affect even greater change in our community, to not only see students graduate or re-engage them in school, but to see them connect to careers in high-wage, high-demand industries."
By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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