Tag Archives: High School Graduation Rates

Youth Unemployment: A Growing Problem

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You probably know a good kid like this. Graduating from high school in June. From an OK high school. Not the best student. Probably not able to get in to college – even if they could afford it and were motivated to try. They had a part-time job a couple of years ago, but got laid off. Haven’t really looked for a job since then. No real skills that employers can use. No idea how to look for a job. Starting to think about the future. No idea where to start.

Guess what? Their prospects are not good. And they need help.

You know we have an unemployment problem. Did you know we have a youth unemployment problem?

Employers of every size in every sector lament the lack of skills available to them in the talent pool.  Whether you’re reading reports from McKinsey, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, or countless other research organizations, the message is all too similar:  our post-secondary education system isn’t delivering enough degreed individuals to meet the demands of employers world-wide. And it’s only going to get worse. Something I’ve written about here, here and here.

But it isn’t just the post-secondary education system. The secondary system is doing even worse. The youth labor market has collapsed since 2000.  The rate of overall youth employment in the teen population has fallen from 45% in 2000 to 26% in 2012 – a 42% drop, to the lowest point in post-World War II history. In 1989 the youth employment rate was 48.5%.

Here are some sobering statistics from research completed in 20120 by The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University for Jobs for America’s Graduates:

  • In 2000, the share of employed, non-college-bound youth from the high school class of 2000 was just under 70%

  • In 2011, the share of employed, non-college-bound youth from the class of 2011 was 45%, the lowest since the survey started in 1965

  • In October 2011, the employment/population rates for these non-college-bound high school graduates ranged from a low of 32% among African Americans to a high of 48% among Caucasian youth.

  • Fewer than half of these employed, non-college-bound graduates were able to obtain a full-time job – yielding a full-time employment/population ratio of 21%

  • Among the non-college-bound population of high school graduates, only 25% of Caucasian, 24% of Hispanic, and 7% of African American youth were working full time.

And these are high school graduates.  In the U.S., the percentage of high school graduates by state ranges from 62% (Nevada) to 88% (Iowa), with an overall average of 78%. What about the 22% of young people who drop out of high school?  What are their prospects?

From an historical perspective, this chart shows the economic impact of dropping out of high school. But that lifetime earning amount of $1,198,447 will surely decline as fewer young people with – or without – high school degrees gain full-time employment.

Georgetown Projections of Jobs Education Requirements Figure V

And this is a problem. If unemployment in the teen population continues to rise, then a key argument to persist in high school to graduation begins to fade, further impacting college graduation rates. If unemployment in the teen population continues to rise, then key employment skills building experience will decline making employment less likely as they age in to their 20’s. If unemployment in the teen population continues to rise, then a whole host of societal challenges will grow – and none of them positive for people or the economy.

Involvement in organizations like JAG* (Jobs for America’s Graduates) can help. I’ve written about JAG here and here. It’s the longest-lived, most successful program in the U.S. that keeps the most at-risk kids in school through graduation and then stays with them through their first year of employment, college or military service. And it is making a difference in the graduation and employment rates of kids in 33 states.  Here are some current outcomes;

  • The employment/population ratio in spring 2012 was 72% for all young people in JAG versus only 42% for their national comparison group.

  • Nearly 60% of those JAG graduates not enrolled in college were employed full time in May 2012, compared to only 30% of their comparison group counterparts. Over three times the rate of teenagers in general who were working.

    • Nearly 48% of non-college enrolled African American JAG graduates were working full time versus only 17% of their comparison group peers.

    • 61% of Hispanic JAG non-college enrolled graduates were employed full time versus only 42% of their comparison group.

    • 68% of Caucasian JAG non-college enrolled graduates were employed full time versus only 31% of their comparison group.

It’s hard to argue with success. It’s even harder to argue with 32 years of consistent success. This video really captures the effectiveness of this approach:

Employers that hire skills that require high school graduation need to be concerned about the entire talent pipeline, not just the college degreed pipeline.

And by concerned, I mean involved in keeping young people in school until they graduate so that they are employable.

And by involved, I mean supporting programs like JAG that are focused on providing real, sustainable results.

And by support I mean financial support, political influence support and the promise to provide job interviews to every JAG student where they have a presence. (Archer Daniels Midland has done just that!)

You know we have an unemployment problem. Did you know we have a youth unemployment problem?

*I serve on JAG’s national board of directors.



Filed under Archer Daniels Midland, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, High School Graduation Rates, JAG, Jobs for America's Graduates, Skills Shortage

Big Trouble in the Talent Pipeline

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I’m not generally big on infographics.  I find them self-serving and hard to read and digest.  Here’s an exception.  It’s called Unprepared for College and was posted on the College@Home.com blog.

I’ve written about the non-performance of the U.S. education system in preparing our future workforce here and here.  This infographic puts the issues front and center.  I don’t see how we can continually turn away from this data.

  • Half of all college students drop out before receiving a degree
  • 1 in 4 college freshman don’t complete their 1st year
  • Over half-a- million college freshman drop out every year

But wait.  It gets worse:

  • 80% of college freshman say high school is too easy but
    • 5 out of 10 college freshman can’t find New York or Ohio on a map of the U.S.
    • 9 out of 10 can’t find Afghanistan on a map of Asia
    • 3 out of 10 can’t find China on a globe
    • 4 out of 10 can’t find Israel, Iraq or Saudi Arabia
    • 7 out of 10 can’t find North Korea

And worse:

College@Home High School Readiness Benchmarks

And then there’s this:

  • 4 out of 5 students currently pursuing a math or science degree feel that their K-12 education did not prepare them for college
  • 2.2 million college freshman are learning high school material in college
  • 80% of students in remedial classes in college had a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • 20% of freshman with a 4.0 high school GPA need remediation in math, English or both
  • And 8 out of 10 freshman believed they were ready for college when they graduated from high school

The bottom line?  Only 56% of students enrolled in a 4-year program receive a degree within 6 years.

So.  What are we doing about this?  Government can’t or won’t act.  We can blame teacher unions, local governments, state governments, the voting public, parents, the students themselves – but none of that helps solve the problem.

Seems to me that business in general – and HR specifically – needs to step up to the plate.  After all, we’re the ones most concerned with the unskilling of our populace.  We’re the ones who know the most about the kinds of skills we need today and the kinds of skills we’ll need tomorrow, and next month and in the years to come.  I think it’s up to us.  What do you think?


Filed under China Gorman, College Graduation Rates, Connecting Dots, Education Deficit, High School Graduation Rates, Jobs for America's Graduates, Post-secondary education, STEM, Talent pipeline

From Tragedy to Triumph

As an employer, how are you feeling about the epidemic that is our high school dropout rate?  As an employer, how are you evaluating the quality of students who do manage to graduate from high schools in the communities where you have operations?  As an employer, would you like to have educated, motivated, enthusiastic high school graduates lining up outside your employment office ready to start their careers with your organization and committed to making a difference for you, your customers and your community?

If you’re like Verizon, AT&T, Archer Daniels Midland, McDonalds, Apollo Group and many more employers of all sizes, you’re already supporting the work of JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) in 32 states and 1,000 communities to provide support to the most at-risk high school students in the toughest high school situations imaginable.

JAG programs this year supported more than 43,000 such students and achieved a 94% graduation rate.  Let me write that again:  JAG programs this year supported more than 43,000 such students and achieved a 94% graduation rate.  In the high schools with the most disenfranchised students:  inner city schools, Indian reservation schools, forgotten rural schools, crime-ridden schools, underfunded schools, JAG is working a kind of magic.

At its Annual Leadership Awards Event last week in Washington, D.C., 300+ JAG student leaders and almost as many of their teachers came together to attend the JAG 2012 National Student Leadership Academy and to celebrate their success in overcoming all the odds stacked up against them. (Here‘s my review of last year’s event.)

Two student leaders took to the podium during the luncheon to talk about their journey “from tragedy to triumph,” as Darnell Willliams described his life experience.  Darnell, currently a college student interning in the South Caroline Department of Employment & Workforce, described how JAG opened a door for him.  “The door had a sign that said One Way:  Up!”

Sage Zephier, a senior from Wagner, SD (which sits in the Yankton Indian Reservation) has a 3.0 grade point average; scored a 26 on the ACT; is a three sport athlete in football, wrestling (state) and track (state) and will attend college in the fall to the study athletic training and psychology.  His journey from tragedy to triumph would truly make you stand up and cheer.

Both Sage and Darnell have battled the worst that a young person could face – and it would be completely expected for them to have fallen between the cracks of social and family services, education systems, tribal systems and community safety nets.  Except someone forget to tell that to Sage and Darnell.  And that someone was the JAG Specialist in their high school.  That’s the person who convinced these two young men – and thousands of other girls and boys – that they mattered.  That they had a future that included education, jobs, financial security, the ability to contribute to their community and the ability to make a difference for others.

In 2012 there are more than 43,000 young people with stories similar to Sage and Darnell who are beating the odds and succeeding in high school and planning to go to college, enter the military or secure a job.  These are kids we would not have expected to make it out of 10th grade, much less graduate from high school.

Since the first high school adopted the JAG program and curriculum 32 years ago, nearly 1,000,000 young people who most likely would have never been able to contribute positively to the economy have graduated from high school, gone to college, served our country in the military and started successful careers – all of which changed the employment and economic trajectory of their families.

So.  As an employer, would you like to have educated, motivated, enthusiastic high school graduates lining up outside your employment office ready to start their careers with your organization and committed to making a difference for you, your customers and your community?

If your answer is yes, then you know what to do.  Get involved with the JAG organization in your state.  Support it financially and sit on its board of trustees.  If JAG isn’t yet in your state, start a conversation with your Governor and get it going!  The contributions you make today to support JAG in your community will come back to your organization in the form of successful students who are ready to commit to your success – and their own success.  Young people like Sage and Darnell.  Trust me:  you’d hire them in a heartbeat!

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Filed under Apollo Group, Archer Daniels Midland, AT&T, China Gorman, High School Graduation Rates, JAG, Jobs for America's Graduates, McDonald's, Talent pipeline, Verizon

Voices of JAG

Now more than ever we need Jobs for America’s Graduates.

JAG is currently operating in 32 states with more than 800 local program affiliates.  If JAG is in your state you need to get involved.  If JAG is not in your state you need lead the way for its introduction.

That is all.

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Filed under China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Education Deficit, High School Graduation Rates, JAG, Jobs for America's Graduates

AT&T, JAG and the Talent Deficit

In my post yesterday, I suggested that employers will need to start making strategic partnerships with education institutions and economic development organizations, among others, to start dealing with the upcoming acute shortage of workers who have graduated from high school and have some college under their belt.

A great example of this came to my attention yesterday.  On Monday AT&T announced an investment of $250,000,000 over the next five years to improve high school graduation rates.  Here’s how their announcement began:  “ As access to skilled workers becomes increasingly vital to the U.S. economy, AT&T is launching a quarter-billion-dollar campaign to help more students graduate from high school ready for careers and college, and to ensure the country is better prepared to meet global competition.”

Investing in JAG – Jobs for America’s Graduates – is an example of strategic corporate investment in the future of the talent pipeline.  JAG, the most effective program of its kind – is a state-based national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who are most at-risk.  In more than three decades of operation, JAG has delivered consistent, compelling results – helping nearly three-quarters of a million young people stay in school through graduation, pursue post-secondary education and secure quality entry-level jobs leading to career advancement opportunities.  The kids in the AT&T Aspire video are great examples of JAG at work in the trenches.

Who wouldn’t hire those kids?

I ended my Data Point Tuesday post yesterday with this imperative:  “The sooner talent acquisition professionals and learning/development professionals in organizations begin to work together on workforce planning and tackling the education deficit, the sooner the talent pipeline will begin to be prepared for 46 million new jobs.”

Looks like AT&T is out in front.  Again!


Filed under Aspire, AT&T, China Gorman, Education Deficit, High School Graduation Rates, JAG, Job Creation, Talent pipeline, Uncategorized