Giving Compass' Take:

• Martha Ross and Nicole Bateman share ways that we can intervene at the K-12 level for opportunity youth who do not have educational credentials beyond a high school diploma. 

• The population of people working with a high school diploma should be able to have access to opportunities that would lead them to post-secondary education or alternative work certification programs. How can leaders in the education space reform pathways for students after high school graduation? 

• Read about organizations working hard to fill opportunity gaps for young people.

Education beyond high school is critical to advancing beyond low-wage jobs, as reams of data and experience have shown. Those with only a high school diploma have higher unemployment rates and lower earnings than their counterparts with more education.

In this blog post, we look at 18-24 year-olds who are not enrolled in school to get a rough measure of how well young people are navigating these transitions. Almost half (48 percent) of all young people, about 15 million, are not in school.

About 15 percent of all young people, or 4.7 million, fall into the category of disconnected or opportunity youth, meaning they aren’t in school and don’t have a job. Half of this not-working/not-in-school group has a high school diploma, and nearly 20 percent has taken some college courses but did not earn a degree.

However, larger numbers of the not-in-school group are working: 33 percent of all young adults, or about 10 million. Although these young people are connected to the labor market, not all connections are equal.

Nearly 30 percent of young adults have left school but have no more than a high school diploma. Whether or not these young people are currently working (and most are), they are all but guaranteed a future of low-wage work unless they go back to school or otherwise increase their skills.

What we can do:

  • Offer much stronger advising to high school students about educational and career options.
  • Provide high school students with an opportunity to get a head start on earning college credits through dual enrollment programs.
  • Redesign high schools so they better prepare students for both post-secondary education and careers.
  • Create stronger pathways into the labor market through such initiatives as work-based learning in high school, sector strategies tailored to young adults, and apprenticeships.
  • Make reforms within community colleges to increase graduation rates.

Read the full article about young adults entering the workforce by Martha Ross and Nicole Bateman at Brookings.