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Prioritizing Youth-Focused Job Creation and Training

The expert testimony, research, scholarship, and lived experience collected by the Commission revealed the following:

  • On a national scale, employment rates showed a ‘Great Age Twist’ between 2000 and 2011. Individuals under age 54 were less likely to be working in 2011 than in 2000, while those 55 and over were more likely to be working in 2011, a phenomenon the Brookings Institute calls “historically unprecedented” (Sum et al., 2014).
  • Over the last 10 years youth employment has dropped by 20 percentage points from around 44 percent to around 24 percent (Sum et al., 2014).
  • Approximately 17 percent of 16-19 year olds were “unengaged”, or not enrolled in school and not working, in 2007 (Covenant House Institute, 2009). Unengaged youth are:
    • Less likely to be employed and more likely to rely on government supports.
    • Less healthy. They are more likely to have spent time in a mental hospital in the past five years and more likely to have received drug/alcohol treat.
    • More likely to be involved in criminal activity. Though they represent only 17.3% of all youth, they commit 63% of all youth crime (Belfield et al., 2012).
  • The economic burden of unengaged youth is felt by the youth, as well as taxpayers and society. The average unengaged youth costs taxpayers over $250,000 over the course of their lifetime (age 16 and on) and over $750,000 in social burden (e.g., lost gross earnings, additional health expenditures, crime costs, welfare and social services) (Belfield et al., 2012).
  • There are several long-term benefits of early employment:
    • Higher earnings in adulthood (Sum et al.,2000)
    • Higher graduation rates (Leos‐Urbel, 2014; Schwartz et al., 2015).
    • Lower likelihood of being incarcerated and/or committing crime (Belfield et al., 2012)
  • Worldwide, 31 percent of employers are struggling to fill available positions despite the economic downturn—not because there aren’t enough workers, but because of “a talent mismatch between workers’ qualifications and the specific skill sets and combinations of skills employers want” (Manpower, 2010). Changing demographics will exacerbate this situation. Over the next decade or so, the knowledge and technical skills of millions of retiring baby boomers need to be replaced (Partnership for 21st Century Skills 2010).
  • The State of St. Louis Workforce annual survey showed that the shortage of workers with knowledge or skills is the most frequently cited (by area employers) barrier to expanding employment (St. Louis Community College, 2015).
  • In the tightening labor market, employers’ flexibility in selecting a qualified workforce has diminished and they are increasingly required to address training and development of their workforce and/or pay higher wages (St. Louis Community College, 2015).

These findings prompted the Commission to draft several recommendations that call for prioritizing youth-focused job creation and training.

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Suggested Reading List

Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2010). Up to the Challenge. Retrieved from

St. Louis Community College (2015). State of St. Louis Workforce. Bridgeton, MO:Workforce Solutions Group. Retrieved from


  1. Belfield, C., Levin, H., & Rosen, R. (2012). The economic value of opportunity youth. Corporation for Economic and Community Service and the White House Council for Community Solutions. Retrieved from:
  2. Covenant House Institute. (2009). Youth Status Report:St. Louis, MO. Retrieved from:
  3. Leos‐Urbel, J. (2014). What is a Summer Job Worth? The Impact of Summer Youth Employment on Academic Outcomes. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33(4), 891-911.
  4. (2010). Supply/Demand:2010 talent shortage survey results. Retrieved from Survey__results_0504101+def.pdf?MoD=AJPErES
  5. Schochet, P. Z., Burghardt, J., & McConnell, S. (2008). Does Job Corps work? Findings from the National Job Corps Study. American Economic Review, 98(5), 1864-1886. DOI:10.1257/aer. 98.5.1864
  6. Schwartz, AE., Leos-Urbel, J., & Wiswall, M. (2015). Making summer matter:The impact of youth employment on academic performance. The National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from:
  7. Louis Community College (2015). State of St. Louis workforce. Bridgeton, MO:Workforce Solutions Group. Retrieved from
  8. Sum, A., Khatiwada, I., Trubskyy, M., & Palma, S. (2014). The plummeting labor market fortunes of teens and young adults. Washington, DC:The Brookings Institution. Retrieved from:
  9. Sum, A., Fogg, N., & Mangum, G. (2000). Confronting the Youth Demographic Challenge:The Labor Market Prospects of Out-of-School Young Adults. Policy Issues Monograph. Retrieved from: