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

Posted February 24, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog and the survey says 2016

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.

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