On June 7, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved the Workforce Investment Improvement Act (HR 4297) on a party line vote – meaning the legislation may soon be considered by the full House of Representatives. A similar job programs bill was drafted in the Senate last year, but fizzled out without much fanfare. The current bill would dramatically restructure the current job training and employment system, eliminating many federal programs designed to help young Americans. This is a deeply misguided move with youth unemployment at nearly twice the national average.
The Workforce Investment Improvement Act converts many funding streams into a single grant to states, leaving funding for youth employment to the whims of state governors. However, there is little reason for governors to direct resources to young people – the bill contains no financial incentives or performance measures for youth employment. As a consequence, programs that empower young people through leadership development, resume writing, and job training could soon disappear. Over 250,000 young people could lose access to these services.
Youth across the country expressed strong support for such opportunities during Young Invincibles’ recent 20-state bus tour. Services like YouthBuild, summer job programs, and Americorps all received praise as sources of employment and skill building. Many youth use the programs as stepping stones to get back on track after dropping out of traditional high school, in addition to gaining job skills, leadership experience, and confidence to take into the workplace or the post-secondary classroom.
Taking away pathways to a successful career makes no sense. The 3.4 million unemployed young people ages 16-24 deserve better from their elected representatives. The legislation is a great opportunity for Congress to address the employment needs of youth by increasing education and employment opportunities. But the current version does exactly the opposite. Members of the House should scrap the bill, and go back to work drafting a law that helps our nation’s youth.
Check out a fact sheet on our website created by Young Invincibles and Campaign for Youth.