The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically affected young adults in the workforce. As the pandemic effectively eliminates entire sectors of the economy and brings our daily lives to a halt, young adults increasingly struggle to find a job or pursue an education. As a result, many young adults have taken on under-paid and high-risk frontline positions. These employment outcomes disproportionately impact marginalized populations, exacerbating pre-existing inequalities in our economy and painting a bleak picture for the future of young adult involvement in the workforce.

To identify strategies to improve the workforce landscape, Young Invincibles (YI) organized a series of virtual roundtable discussions with students, leading scholars, and policymakers to consider how workforce development policy can overcome its mounting challenges. Each of the roundtables underscored the reality that challenges facing the workforce require a complete transformation of our workforce development systems. 

Panelists emphasized that workforce policies must invest in young adults early on, offering subsidized training in future-proof sectors. Now more than ever, our workforce development systems must move away from being cut off from other systems and move toward integration with social safety-net supports. All of these transformative efforts must also be bolstered by national, systematic data collection that both tracks the efficacy of programs and scales up programs with demonstrated success. 

While YI’s workforce development roundtables highlighted that the path toward equitable workforce outcomes will be challenging, they also shed light on the exciting ways to get there. 

The roundtables kicked off by unpacking historic inequalities in our workforce. Panelists highlighted how job opportunities before the pandemic were insufficient to meet people’s basic needs, necessitating a radical re-imagining of our workforce development systems to meet the evolving challenges of a post Covid-19 world.

The second roundtable analyzed the faltering promise of the American dream, focusing on the social safety net and its integral role in supporting the economic mobility of marginalized populations. Panelists emphasized how underpaid work, food insecurity, and housing insecurity combine to destabilize the lives of young adults and their pursuit of economic advancement.

With a more holistic understanding of the barriers people face when pursuing quality, long-term employment opportunities, YI hosted a final roundtable discussion to analyze the future of the workforce. As our economy becomes increasingly digital, panelists argued for making strategic, nation-wide investments in people–not just corporations and new technology.