Youth out of work: Teens, young adults lacking in skills training
BY MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Monday, December 03, 2012
12/03/12 at 10:39 AM
Read the full report.
Employment rates for teens and young adults are at the lowest point since the 1950s, according to a new study.
Nearly 6.5 million teens and young adults are neither in school nor employed, according to "Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," a study released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Nationally, the employment rate of teens ages 16 to 19 is down 42 percent since 2000, according to the report.
In Oklahoma, 28 percent of teens ages 16 to 19 are employed and 64 percent of young adults ages 20 to 24 are employed.
Nationally, those state percentages range from 18 percent to 48 percent for teens and 51 percent to 75 percent for young adults.
In Oklahoma, the problem isn't necessarily a lack of jobs, said Steve Tiger, CEO and superintendent at Tulsa Technology Center.
"We are positioned better than many states largely due to the growth in aerospace and oil and gas," Tiger said.
Those positions, however, require skilled training.
"Young adults who don't have that (training) aren't going to be able to obtain those jobs," Tiger said. "We have many employers telling us 'We can hire additional employees but are having trouble finding them.' "
Technical training and certification is better preparation for many of the manufacturing and energy jobs than a traditional four-year college degree, Tiger said.
"The problem, I believe, at the national level is that many of the younger students are not pursuing that type of training," he said. "What I'm afraid of is so many students feel the only path for success is a four-year degree. They get out after a couple of years and have difficulty finding a job and don't have a work history to provide evidence to the employer."
That's one of the reasons that Zach Cramer, a junior at Berryhill High School, is studying machining technology at Tulsa Tech.
"I know a couple of people who have gone to college and dropped out and don't know where they're going in life," Cramer said.
Chance Edwards, a senior at Bixby High School, is studying machining because he wants to stack the odds of getting a job in his favor.
"For machining, there's a bright future," he said.
"A lot of my friends have graduated and go work at McDonald's. I thought this way it would be an easy way to get a good job."
The lack of technical training is exacerbated by the number of adults with work experience who lost jobs in the recession and have had to seek out entry-level positions typically filled by the younger workforce.
"A lot of employers are hiring older adults with experience who can show their work habits are good. They get hired and then are provided the technical training. Employers are choosing those individuals over younger applicants because they have shown they have the ability to work," Tiger said. "Even if their experience is not related, they at least have work experience."
Jim Walker, executive director of Youth Services of Tulsa, said that the percentage of jobs available to teens has shrunk from 16.5 percent to 3.3 percent since 1985.
"Older people are remaining in the work force and the number of jobs available to kids has gone to almost zero," he said.
Youth Services provides a transitional program for formerly homeless teens and one of the requirements is they have to go to school and/or have some type of employment.
Walker said even unskilled jobs are harder to come by.
"It's just real tough out there to find jobs because 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds have taken fast-food jobs to be employed," he said.
"We've watched some of them work real hard day to day and struggle to find work."
Percentage of teen and young adult employment
Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation
Original Print Headline: Youth out of work
Mike Averill 918-581-8489
Chance Edwards and Zach Cramer cut on an aluminum block during class in the machining program at the Tulsa Tech campus in Broken Arrow. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
Students Aareona Simon and Miranda Bigpond set up their machine to cut an aluminum block during class in the machining program at the Tulsa Tech campus in Broken Arrow. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World