Resources to Help Young Workers Through the Economic Crisis

Posted July 1, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Helping Young Workers Through the Economic Crisis

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has spurred an eco­nom­ic cri­sis that has under­cut some indus­tries more severe­ly than oth­ers. Among the hard­est hit? Hos­pi­tal­i­ty and trans­porta­tion, two fields often filled by young work­ers and, espe­cial­ly, young work­ers of color.

With less edu­ca­tion and short­er career tracks than their old­er col­leagues, these young work­ers may find them­selves look­ing for a new job with­in a grim employ­ment landscape.

We know it will take ambi­tious efforts to ensure that young peo­ple get the help they need to sup­port their fam­i­lies dur­ing the cur­rent eco­nom­ic cri­sis and beyond,” says Alli­son Ger­ber, a senior asso­ciate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

This post shares resources from Casey Foun­da­tion part­ners that explore why young work­ers are par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble in today’s econ­o­my and what sup­ports are nec­es­sary to help them real­ize a brighter employ­ment future.

We hope that these resources act as a start­ing place for offi­cials in the gov­ern­ment, pri­vate and phil­an­thropic sec­tors as they work to build bold pro­grams that will address the var­ied needs of young peo­ple and oth­ers who are strug­gling,” says Gerber.

Keep­ing young peo­ple con­nect­ed to edu­ca­tion and work

Eco­nom­ic crises, includ­ing the 2008 reces­sion, can spur long peri­ods of unem­ploy­ment — a down­turn that is par­tic­u­lar­ly detri­men­tal for young work­ers at the onset of their careers, accord­ing to a blog post from the non­par­ti­san think tank New Amer­i­ca. The piece also cites research indi­cat­ing that such gaps can lead to depressed wages and increase a young person’s risk of future unemployment.

To pre­vent these out­comes, recov­ery pro­grams should aim to keep young peo­ple con­nect­ed to edu­ca­tion­al, train­ing, men­tor­ing and paid employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties so they are not left dis­con­nect­ed from work for extend­ed peri­ods, the post says.

A sec­ond blog post from the think tank’s Part­ner­ship to Advance Youth Appren­tice­ship asserts that appren­tice­ships must be at the cen­ter of efforts to assist young peo­ple in today’s eco­nom­ic cli­mate, par­tic­u­lar­ly for the many unem­ployed mem­bers of Gen­er­a­tion Z. Such pro­grams — which allow young peo­ple to earn cre­den­tials and a pay­check while they train along­side skilled men­tors — should be embed­ded in var­i­ous recov­ery strate­gies, the piece suggests.

It iden­ti­fies strate­gies such as:

  • back-to-work efforts for crit­i­cal eco­nom­ic sec­tors, in which employ­ers can ben­e­fit by access­ing entry-lev­el tal­ent that they grad­u­al­ly devel­op; and
  • pub­lic employ­ment ini­tia­tives and ser­vice projects, where appren­tice­ship pro­grams can help gov­ern­ments address com­mu­ni­ty employ­ment needs and train new, skilled workers.

Estab­lish­ing a fed­er­al jobs program

Young, low-wage work­ers with­out an asso­ciate or bachelor’s degree will be among the hard­est hit as the econ­o­my fal­ters, accord­ing to a recent Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion analy­sis (how­ev­er, young peo­ple with col­lege degrees will also strug­gle, accord­ing to the research).

To help young work­ers and oth­ers affect­ed by the pan­dem­ic, the piece’s authors call for a fed­er­al­ly fund­ed employ­ment ini­tia­tive that would:

  • employ mil­lions of peo­ple for at least three years; and
  • tar­get young work­ers and those with a range of expe­ri­ence and edu­ca­tion­al back­grounds who may face chal­lenges find­ing work.

Such an ini­tia­tive could aid pan­dem­ic response efforts by bol­ster­ing the tal­ent pipeline of in-demand indus­tries, such as man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­duc­ing pro­tec­tive equip­ment for health-care work­ers, com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions ramp­ing up food dri­ves, and pub­lic health agen­cies con­duct­ing con­tact trac­ing. In addi­tion, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment could expand pro­grams that cater to young work­ers, such as Youth­Build or Ameri­Corps, the piece says.

Access­ing child care for young workers

Young par­ents — many of whom work in indus­tries deemed essen­tial,” such as health care and social ser­vices — have encoun­tered child care chal­lenges dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, asserts an Urban Insti­tute blog post. Some hur­dles are new, such as shut­ting down day­care facil­i­ties and schools for extend­ed peri­ods of time. Oth­er hur­dles are famil­iar, like afford­ing the high cost of child care when the fam­i­ly income drops.

To help sup­port these par­ents, the blog post urges pol­i­cy­mak­ers and oth­er stake­hold­ers to:

  • ensure that all par­ents have access to var­i­ous child-care options, espe­cial­ly those work­ing essen­tial jobs or fac­ing finan­cial challenges;
  • pro­vide pub­lic fund­ing — or seek pri­vate fund­ing — to hire and retain child-care work­ers and sup­port staff;
  • secure spaces for child-care ser­vices, such as com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters; and
  • imple­ment health pro­to­cols at child-care cen­ters based on expert advice, such as lim­it­ing the num­ber of peo­ple in classrooms.

Sup­port­ing stu­dents who are parents

Even pre-pan­dem­ic, many stu­dent par­ents strug­gled to make ends meet. With­in this group, sin­gle moth­ers and Black stu­dent par­ents often hold sig­nif­i­cant col­lege debt, which can add to their eco­nom­ic vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty dur­ing peri­ods of unem­ploy­ment, accord­ing to a fact sheet pro­duced by the Insti­tute for Wom­en’s Pol­i­cy Research.

Per the pub­li­ca­tion, gov­ern­ment, phil­an­thropic, edu­ca­tion­al and com­mu­ni­ty insti­tu­tions should:

  • increase emer­gency finan­cial assis­tance to stu­dent parents;
  • pro­vide access to afford­able com­put­ers and inter­net ser­vice need­ed for dis­tance learning;
  • assist stu­dent par­ents with var­i­ous fam­i­ly needs, such as pro­vid­ing gro­ceries, dia­pers, children’s books and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als; and
  • offer stu­dent par­ents flex­i­bil­i­ty around course­work dead­lines, class atten­dance and project require­ments as they jug­gle par­ent­ing and oth­er responsibilities.

Learn about strate­gies for help­ing low-wage work­ers in uncer­tain times

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