by Sarah Einselen and Caitlin Huston
The number of unemployed youth in the nation is at the highest rate in 50 years, with 60 percent of 20 to 24 year-olds in Indiana out of work, according to a report released today.
The Youth and Work report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation points to the lack of education as the reason behind the nationwide high unemployment – 6.5 million youth from 16 to 24 year olds. In Cass County, community leaders say area extracurricular educational opportunities should help put youth ahead.
In Indiana, the report also details that unemployment is at 27 percent for 16 to 19 year olds.
The Youth and Work report also finds that 2.2 million teenagers and 4.3 million adults from ages 20 to 24 nationwide are not in school and not working. Without a degree, these young adults often cannot get entry-level jobs that increasingly are requiring higher education, the report states.
Joe Frank, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said he believes youth are not able to find unemployment, because of the increased competition between youth and older workers.
“What we’re seeing is just that employers, since the downturn of 2009, they have a lot more to choose from,” Frank said.
The problem for the younger worker is that older workers generally have more experience and often have a higher education, he said.
“That’s extremely big having your high school diploma or a GED,” Frank said.
Earning those qualifications also helps ensure a greater financial stability for the future, he said.
While Frank’s department works off of statistics from the Bureau of Labor, which puts unemployment as high as 23.8 percent for 16 to 19 year olds and 18.8 percent for 20 to 24 year olds, Frank said those two groups are still the most disadvantaged in the state.
“Those two age groups are the highest rate of unemployment in the state,” Frank said.
Locally, Michelle Starkey, superintendent of the Logansport School Corporation, said their dropout rate is decreasing, but that she has heard from kids who are having trouble finding work.
“We do have kids who want to get jobs, but they struggle finding jobs,” Starkey said.
To help the youth learn marketable skills, Starkey said the school has been working with the Century Career Center and the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. Overall, she said graduating from high school or earning a GED is important for any career path.
“Obviously education gives you lots of different skills which then opens up lots of different opportunities for you,” she said.
Connie Neininger, president of Logansport-Cass County Economic DevelopmentFoundation, also said she feels the area has been taking steps to ensure that youth are able to learn marketable skills.
“That is commendable, that we do have the JAG program here,” Neininger said.
For Jared Brumett, 17, a Logansport High School junior, getting a job wasn’t too hard – his family knew the former owner of the State Theater, though he still had to apply and go through the interview process.
For most of his friends, however, it’s a different story.
“A lot of the people I talk to can’t really get a job,” he said. “They just go out, fill out applications and the people never call them back.”
He enjoys working in the movie business, he said, but originally took the job “because it was a job.”
Jared wants to go to college after graduating from high school.
“I’m not real sure” what to study, he said.
Neininger said the most important thing she believes people can do is instruct the youth on responsibility and the importance of getting an education.
“We as adults have to set the example for our youth,” Neininger said. “If we can show them the importance of going to school, being there every day, turning in your assignments every day, that’s going to carry into the workplace.”