Across the country a lot of attention is being given to a group of young adults referred to as “disconnected” or “opportunity” youth. These are young adults between the ages of 16-24 who are neither in school nor employed. A study by the Annie E Casey Foundation in 2013 reported that this age group has the worst employment statistics since World War II. In addition, the same study indicates that 21 percent of them are young parents who must take care of their own needs and those of their children. Most of these young adults have not completed high school, and if they have, often lack the academic skills necessary to access post-secondary training. Many are justice involved; recent data from the Kent County Jail identifies that the number of inmates under the age of 25 at any given time is approximately 30%. Add to this a lack of positive life experiences and role models, and the path to well-being and economic security can seem daunting. AND YET, local employers have made it clear that a genuine talent shortage exists.
Young adults who have dropped out of school have the opportunity to complete their GED with the assistance of Steepletown’s Education Coordinator and Education Volunteers. The lifetime earnings of a high school dropout are estimated to be $400,000 less than those of a high school graduate.
The Culinary Leadership Academy, offered through Kitchen Sage, provides employment training for those interested in the food service industries. CLA begins with a six week core training that culminates in students taking the ServSafe Manager Certification exam, which is a nationally recognized credential with the Department of Labor. The training continues at one of Kitchen Sage’s many partners for a paid externship. The ultimate goal is for the student to gain meaningful employment in this industry.
JobStart is employment training for young men of color, ages 18 – 24, with challenges to getting and staying employed. This initiative is an opportunity for participants to get paid while developing the skills that employers demand and required for advanced career opportunities. Participants are empowered and supported to achieve financial stability and overall well-being through employment training, case management, and a paid work experience.
Several post-secondary trainings require an enrollee to take three WorkKeys assessments: Reading, Locating Information, and Math, to determine eligibility. In addition several employers are also requiring prospective employees to have their NCRC. Steepletown is a certified testing center. In addition, Steepletown provides remediation services for those desiring to increase their academic skills/ WorkKeys scores.
The Annie E Casey report on “Youth and Work” stated that the best way to build the necessary critical skills to launch a career is by helping young people finds jobs and work-like activities. It also reported that early job experiences increases the likelihood of more work in the future.
Steepletown is a part of the nationwide WIOA system of one-stop centers, which directly provide an array of employment services and connect customers to work-related training and education.