At one point in time, adolescents and young adults were able to find job opportunities; whether they worked as a cashier at the local supermarket, organized books at the library, or restocked items at a retail store.  The opportunity to build work skills was always available.  Unfortunately, on this very day in 2014, one cannot confirm if this opportunity still exists, especially for this age group residing in Newark, NJ.

In comparison to the state of NJ or even the United States of America , Newark continues to have high rates of unemployment.  According to the 2010 Census, the unemployment rate in Newark, NJ is at 14.3%, nearly 7% higher than the state’s rate, as well as the country.  In addition, nearly three-fourths of youth ages 16-19 are unemployed.  The lethal combination of young adults and youth being out of school and out of work creates a toxic epidemic of despair and poverty.  With poverty come additional circumstances such as crime, environmental issues, and homelessness.  Several initiatives have taken place to counteract this and one prime example is the workforce development agencies that model the school-to-work initiative.

In a recent study by Newmark and Joyce, they stated that School-to-Work programs provide students the avenue to transition easily from secondary school to the labor force.  These types of programs embrace the collaborative nature of youth education, on-the-job training and industry engagement to ensure students defeat poverty and unemployment.  For example, the All-Stars Project, a nation-wide organizations that uses the arts to engage and empower youth from socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, hosts the Development School for Youth (DSY).  DSY is an internship based program for young people between the ages of 16-21.  They collaborate with companies such as the Port Authority of NY, Investors Bank, and LexisNexis to provide young people room to strengthen their work skills.   Work-based learning experiences that are connected to schools, community agencies, and companies are effective ways at reducing poverty, increasing educational attainment and reducing the unemployment rate amongst the young adults and adolescents.  These learning experiences should be embraced by members of the educational, business, and public sector to ensure an effective integration of in-the-class learning and on-the-job training.

Furthermore, school-to-work programs provide students the opportunity to examine a desired career more closely to determine if they would pursue it further into their post-secondary plan.  In addition, early exposure to the labor force has been confirmed by workforce education experts, like Linda Harris of the Center for Law and Social Policy, as being correlated to higher earnings in young adulthood.

With unemployment rates continuing to remain high not only amongst the youth and young adults, it is also high for the next age bracket.  This results in competing demands in the workforce.  As a community, we have an opportunity and obligation to offer creative ways to expose Newark’s youth and young adults to the workforce.  The city has many resourceful tools within the public, private and government sector.  With the various sectors working together with the schools and youth, it is without a doubt that the City of Newark will bring hope back into the youth of “Brick City.”

Click here for a map that provides several job-training programs for young people ages 16 through 24.

laureen.jpgLaureen Delance is a member of The Citizens Campaign's Newark City Storytellers Bureau, dedicated to telling the stories of citizen leadership and showcasing civic innovation. Read more from Laureen on her blog, Hope 4 Cities.