Senators’ Bill Would help Prepare Young People for the Workforce and Boost Their Economic Potential

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/20/19]—This week, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.)—along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—introduced a bipartisan bill to promote partnerships between afterschool providers and businesses so young people can explore career paths and opportunities that help them land their first jobs and thrive in the workforce.

Right now, communities in Minnesota, Georgia, and across America face significant challenges in ensuring youth gain the skills needed to be adequately prepared to enter the workforce. Many young people share concerns about whether they have the skills necessary to secure a job. This lack of adequate workforce readiness also leads to negative economic impacts for employers, who often say they struggle to find workers with the right skills for open jobs. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act would support high-quality programs that help youth gain skills and connect these skills to critical real-life work experiences and learning opportunities. It would set up a grant program for national, youth-serving, out-of-school time organizations like the Boys & Girls Club to fund workforce preparation programs while also increasing coordination between local workforce boards and experts in youth policy.

“I hear from young people about their hopes for the future, which include contributing to their communities and getting good jobs. And I hear from employers that they need help getting connected to great employees. That’s where afterschool and out-of-school time providers can play a role in helping young people gain skills and make connections to mentors, opportunities and local employers,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “Our bipartisan bill would help support youth success for years to come by exposing young people to the varied ways they can participate in the workforce.”

“Currently, there are 7.3 million job openings and only 5.8 million people looking for work,” said Sen. Perdue. “It is important that we invest in the future of America’s workforce by giving children the skills they need to succeed. This bipartisan effort with the Boys & Girls Club and other youth organizations will support the development of out-of-school programs that are focused on preparing our youth to pursue the career of their choice. I’m proud the Boys & Girls Clubs of America calls Georgia home, and I share their commitment to helping kids and teens reach their full potential.”

“Making sure young people are equipped with the skills they need for a successful future is a win for everyone, especially as more employers have jobs that America’s youth are eager to fill,” said Sen. Wyden. “This bill puts workforce readiness front and center to set our young people on the fast track to earning a living wage.”

“A well-educated, well-trained workforce is a key component to future economic development,” said Sen. Graham. “This legislation is great news for South Carolina and an important investment in the future of our nation.”

“We can see what the future looks like by how we set up our kids and teens for success today. But to solve these challenges as a nation, we must start by investing in young people early. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act recognizes the time kids spend after-school and during the summer, to develop these skills, as critical for ensuring equity for all young people,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Smith and Perdue to address the needs of our country and future generations to ensure economic prosperity.  By supporting out-of-school time youth development organizations, we can close the opportunity gap that exists for so many kids and teens today.”

“The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities thanks Senator Smith for her commitment to changing the lives and future opportunities for the youth in our state and around the country,” said Terryl Brumm, CEO Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. “This bill is an investment in a transformational and effective program model that will support achievement of essential skill-building starting at an early age when we at Boys & Girls Clubs know we can make a difference. We’ve seen firsthand that providing a safe environment where young people are engaged and challenged to build and practice essential skills ensures that they can reach their full potential and are well prepared to enter the workforce strengthening the economy today and into the future.

The Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2019 will support programs that provide youth with:

  • Essential-skill development by embedding social-emotional through formal and informal learning experiences;
  • Career exploration through community-based business partnerships, including discovery opportunities, career assessments and planning into a variety of career paths;
  • Employability skills including interviewing, resume writing, financial literacy and credential/certification opportunities that help youth find their first job; and
  • Work-based learning opportunities to practice and apply skills in hands-on work environments through local community business partnerships.