And the Survey Says: Aspen Institute Examines Efforts to Connect Young Adults to Jobs

Posted February 24, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Consider this:

  • Nearly 6.7 million young adults are not working and not in school.
  • The young adult unemployment rate hit 12.2% — more than double the national unemployment rate — in June 2015.
  • The consequences of unemployment and underemployment can be long-lasting and include reduced wages, decreased productivity and shortened career ladders.   

Recognizing the challenges facing America’s youngest workers, the Foundation commissioned the Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative to examine how organizations are helping adults ages 18 to 29 succeed in today’s labor market. The report gathered feedback from nearly 400 individuals at 340 organizations nationwide.

We have used the survey data — particularly findings on improving young adult employment opportunities and the need to better link and align youth and workforce development organizations — to help shape our new Generation Work initiative.

Here’s a quick look at some of the survey results: 

Providers of young adult employment services were asked to identify companies they work with that they felt offered the best job opportunities to young adults. More than 40% of these companies fell into three main industry categories: health care, retail and manufacturing.

Survey respondents also identified industries they commonly target when helping young adults find work. When researchers compared these answers to the providers’ “best job opportunities” list, they found something interesting. The industries on the two lists didn’t completely match up.

In a follow-up question, the survey asked providers to revisit the companies they’d just named as providing the best job opportunities. For each employer identified, the respondents had to pinpoint specific job characteristics that made the company an attractive option for young adults.  

The job qualities that providers repeatedly recognized here were: 

  • advancement opportunities;
  • stable employment;
  • full-time work; and
  • quality supervision.

The survey also asked providers of young adult employment services to pinpoint what hindered their efforts to connect young adults with work. A lack of skills in two areas — 1) vocational and occupational and 2) behavioral and social-emotional — topped this list. In fact, more than 40% of providers surveyed said that insufficient skills in these areas posed “a big challenge” to their work.  

While the Aspen Institute’s survey helped us identify a number of opportunities and challenges that providers navigate when trying to connect young people to jobs, it also raised a lot of questions. These include:

  • What are effective strategies for building relationships with employers considered a good fit for young adults?
  • How can we help young adults develop the social-emotional readiness they need to be successful? 

Read more about the survey results in the Aspen Institute’s follow-up report, released last month.