President’s Budget Proposal Aims to Help Youth Get First Job

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration wants to help young people land their first job, including those who have dropped out of high school.

The White House announced last Thursday it will include a $5.5 billion plan to boost employment for young people in a budget proposal slated for release this week.

The plan includes $3.5 billion to create new partnerships with companies and communities to get nearly 1 million youth into a first job during the summer. The investment also aims to help 150,000 young people who have been out of school and work into a job for as long as a year.

In addition, the plan includes $2 billion to help young people who have dropped out of high school or are at risk of doing so to get their diploma and enroll in postsecondary education or find a job. The grants would be administered jointly by the Labor and Education departments.

The president’s budget is often read as a statement of priorities, and the summer jobs proposal is one of several components of it that the administration has highlighted in the lead-up to the full release.

Alongside the proposal, the administration also announced that $20 million in existing funding will be awarded to about 10 communities that find innovative ways to connect opportunity youth to jobs. The Department of Labor grants will target communities with high rates of youth unemployment, poverty, crime and dropouts.

“Our economy and our nation are stronger when young people have meaningful opportunities to contribute,” Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in a news release. “Access to a job in the summer and beyond can make all the difference in the world to a young person who doesn’t have many other opportunities, or didn’t have the easiest start in life.”

[Related: Labor Department Programs Support Job Training for Youthful Offenders]

Sarah Pitcock, chief executive officer of the National Summer Learning Association, said the administration’s focus on summer opportunities is encouraging.

“I would say they’re putting their money where their mouth is. And hopefully it’s going to help a lot of kids,” she said.

Pitcock said the proposal’s emphasis on bringing together the education and labor communities is a plus because it recognizes there is a role for schools to play in promoting job readiness and for employers to play in encouraging school success.

A 2012 report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the White House Council for Community Solutions estimated there are 6.7 million “opportunity youth,”  young adults ages 16 to 24 who are not connected to work or school. When those youth seek employment, they’re stymied by a lack of experience and references.

[Related: Opening Doors for Opportunity Youth]

“When a young person struggles to get their first job, it can have a lasting negative impact on her lifetime income as well as her motivation, pride, and self-esteem,” the White House said in a news release. “It is also a missed opportunity for the economy as a whole.”

The White House also announced it will launch a summer opportunity project and hold a related workshop on Feb. 26. The workshop will include the release of a “Summer Opportunity Federal Resource Guide” designed for local governments and community organizations.

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