Building Career Pathways for Youth

The youth workforce is often hardest hit during challenging economic times as many young people struggle to compete for employment opportunities. A 2022 report from Measure of America found that more than 4 million youth and young adults ages 16-24 are disconnected from school and the workforce. There is an urgent need to develop pathways to connect young people with good jobs, work-based learning opportunities, and the supportive services they need to realize their education and career goals.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently launched the Youth Employment Works national strategy to prepare youth for opportunities in high-quality careers and build a workforce system that can better address the unique needs of young workers and job seekers. In his remarks at the recent Youth Employment Works Summit, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh spoke about the importance of bringing together employers, government, training providers, community-based organizations, and other workforce stakeholders to help young people overcome barriers to employment and opportunity. “Today is about critical partnerships. Every sector and every stakeholder have a role to play,” said Walsh. “Establishing these partnerships is how we build the ‘no wrong door’ system. Wherever a young person reaches out: there needs to be a way into opportunity and a path forward into a career.”

The Youth Employment Works strategy centers on three goals:

  • Ensuring the workforce system offers seamless access to job opportunities and supportive services for young people entering the labor force from all pathways.
  • Encouraging partners across all public and private sectors to invest in workforce training and job services for all young people.
  • Guaranteeing all young people, especially “opportunity youth” between 16 and 24 who are neither employed nor enrolled in school, have access to paid work experiences aligned with high-quality career pathways that are safe and age appropriate.

Goodwill® provided services to more than 156,000 individuals aged 16-24 in 2021. Through a collective impact approach, local Goodwills deliver career exploration, hands-on work experiences, education, and mentoring opportunities that help young people build confidence, grow their skills, identify employment pathways, stay on track to complete high school, and prepare to successfully transition to postsecondary education and training. Learn more about the Youth Employment Works Call to Action and share your innovative programs and strategies for serving youth here.