Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 3-29-2017

Abstract

Overall, the employment rate for Worcester youth has improved since 2000; yet mirroring the nation, Worcester continues to have a smaller share of youth 16-24 employed. This situation is intensified for youth of color and young people facing barriers such as homelessness, exiting foster care, juvenile justice involvement, and limited English proficiency. Mass, Inc. estimates that in Worcester there are 3400 disconnected youth—756 are between 16-19 and 2644 are between 20-24. From the youth employment program inventory, we learned that the city’s programs offer many opportunities for “first job” experiences; has some exemplary programs that integrate youth development and workforce development; and is rich in non-profit and government partners to support youth employment. Through the Job1 initiative, the city is attempting to leverage the WIOA framework to increase the region’s collaborative efforts for youth employment and readiness, especially as it relates to private sector engagement. We also learned that there are some significant gaps in the youth employment sector. For example, private sector involvement is limited; pathways to an appropriate postsecondary education track is not clear after youth complete their “first job” experience; there are limited training, credentialing, and apprenticeship opportunities for disconnected youth that lead to living wage career options; systems to monitor and evaluate local labor market trends, programmatic efforts and youth’s individual progress are largely missing; questions were raised about whether youth see summer employment as ‘real jobs’ and whether they are authentic work experiences; and while the city is rich in partners, there are some key actors who are not currently at the Worcester Youth Jobs Task Force table (e.g. several WIOA funded partners, Quinsigamond Community College, and private sector actors). Taken together, this analysis on the local youth workforce, labor market, and current programs offer a robust foundation on which to build new strategies to increase the employment prospects of our city’s 1 With support from Clark University’s Mosakowski Institute.

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