More than six years have passed since the end of the Great Recession, and while the overall unemployment rate has fallen, the number of young people who are hearing the phrase “you’re hired” has barely budged. In fact, the youth unemployment rate for 16-to-24-year-olds in California is 20.2%—the third-highest rate in the country. This is a staggering number that contributes to weak economic demand, strains our communities and limits growth prospects.
Among this group are young people ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working, may or may not have graduated from high school, and haven’t graduated from college. Meanwhile, while so many high school students are idling, employers continue to say they can’t find qualified workers. In fact, some 40% of American employers cite lack of skills as the No. 1 reason for entry-level vacancies. And Small Business Majority’s opinion polling found that small businesses in particular are having a hard time finding candidates with the right skills and background. Additional research found that many small employers cite a lack of “soft skills” as a difficulty for young people in the workplace, such as being on time, adhering to dress code, committing to quality customer service or having strong interview skills.
We have a unique opportunity to match the next generation of Californians ready and willing to learn with employers who want to help prepare the workforce of the future. However, we understand that while small businesses want to help address this problem, they often don’t have the time or resources to commit to a full-scale internship or mentoring program. That’s why we’re committed to working with small business owners to help them identify simple work-based learning opportunities with local high students and get them the resources they need to get involved.
We believe taking simple steps like participating in a career fair, offering job shadowing opportunities and providing company tours can help more small businesses create meaningful educational and training opportunities for our state’s youth.