NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Unemployment among Young Adults: Exploring Employer-Led Solutions

August 4, 2015

A dramatic deterioration in employment outcomes among younger workers during and since the Great Recession creates new urgency about developing more effective bridges into full-time employment, especially for those with less than a bachelor's degree.

Improving the employment status of young adults and helping employers meet workforce needs are complementary goals. Designing strategies to achieve them requires insight into the supply and demand sides of the labor market: both the characteristics of young people and their typical routes into employment as well as the demand for entry-level workers and the market forces that shape employer decisions about hiring and investing in skill development. A quantitative and qualitative inquiry focused on the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Ill. and Louisville, Ky. led to the following insights:

  • Diversity.   An increasingly diverse younger generation will make up a growing share of the workforce. Improving the educational and employment outcomes of blacks and Hispanics is critical to maintaining a skilled and ompetitive labor force.
  • Opportunities Identified.  Industries such as manufacturing, transportation, logistics, and health care hold more promise for better career opportunities for young adults with less than a bachelor\'s degree.
  • Skills Needed. Firms appreciate the flexibility, energy, and tech-savviness of younger workers, they identify academic and soft skills, dependability, and ability to fit into the workplace culture as both fundamental requirements and pervasive weaknesses among younger workers.
  • Strategy Assessment.  Employers expressed dissatisfaction with their strategies for recruiting, assessing, and hiring entry-level workers.  Upon determining that existing approaches to human resources threatened their      competitiveness, they took concrete steps to improve their strategy.
  • Stakeholder Cooperation.  To improve outcomes both for young adults and businesses, a broad group of stakeholders -- employers, educational institutions, government, and philanthropy -- need to support and make changes on both the supply and demand sides of the labor market.

Source: Martha Ross et al, "Unemployment Among Young Adults: Exploring Employer-Led Solutions," The Brookings Institution, July 21, 2015.


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