DC and youth: we talk the talk, but can we walk the walk?

Back in March I attended a briefing at Brookings on strengthening educational and career pathways for youth in DC (read our Policy Analyst Kate Kairys’s blog on it here). I remember being stunned by the data on low high school graduation rates and high unemployment. Today I was reminded of what is turning into a crisis here in the District.

Martha Ross of Brookings, who also sits on our KIDS COUNT Advisory Board, warns that we as a community need to work together and leverage our city’s assets to ensure our children have the education and skills they need to compete for good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and benefits.  

Right now the numbers are alarming. High school graduation rates are below 50 percent. Nearly 9,000 low-income young people in DC aged 16 to 24 with less than a bachelor’s degree are not in school and not working -- that’s one in 10 young people. Half of all 16- to 19-year-olds are  unemployed.

Ross proposes an ambitious goal for our city: “By 2022, 90 percent of District youth will earn a post-secondary credential and obtain full-time work by the age of 24.” To achieve this, however, we have to work together to help youth meet crucial milestones. (See the milestones here.)

So what do we need to do? To start, we need to help provide work experiences for youth through internships, apprenticeships and part-time jobs. We need to broaden our definition of educational success and continue efforts to strengthen the District’s community college.

Something else we can do is educate ourselves. Next Monday, The Brookings Institution is hosting a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges our District youth face. You can RSVP to Karen Slachetka at kslachetka@brookings.edu by Thursday, December 1 to attend, and we hope you do!