Disconnected Youth Task Force
MOYE convenes and supports the Disconnected Youth Task Force, a City Council-mandated entity comprised of representatives from city government and community stakeholder organizations that explores obstacles facing young people ages 16-24 who are out of work and out of school (OSOW). First convened in 2019, the Task Force has explored questions such as what obstacles prevent OSOW young adults from enrolling in school or being employed, the education and skills employers require, and what policies and programs can best support young adults in reconnecting or staying connected to education or the labor market.
Connecting Our Future Report
In January 2021, the Task Force released its initial report, titled Connecting Our Future. It includes demographic analysis of the OSOW population, a look at the portfolio of programs both to prevent disconnection and to re-engage those already OSOW, and recommendations to provide short-term assistance for current OSOW young adults and long-term, system-level improvements to reduce their number over time. Originally set for release in late winter of 2020, the Task Force dramatically revised the report in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to account for an expected spike in OSOW as a result of job losses and educational disruptions. The report – which includes a set of recommendations to deliver immediate help for current OSOW young adults and those at risk of disconnecting from school and work, as well as long-term progress in reducing the number of OSOW New Yorkers– will serve as the City's strategic plan to serve this population.
Connecting Our Future noted the reality that the COVID-19 crisis has hit hardest within communities of color both in health outcomes and economic impacts. Following a decade of steady reduction in the number of OSOW young adults, the report estimates that between job losses and educational disruptions, the pandemic has likely at least doubled the number.
The Task Force calls for City government to implement the following recommendations:
- Prioritize programs and services that reconnect young New Yorkers to education, employment and training as part of the City's COVID-19 response.
- Improve and enhance program quality and outcomes by establishing clear standards and goals across City agencies for serving this population.
- Ensure that young adults' input and leadership are centered across the portfolio of programs to meet the needs of a diverse, evolving OSOW population.
- Integrate career awareness and readiness into middle school and high school to ensure young New Yorkers are prepared for long-term careers.
- Support programs to improve college retention and completion, along with the transition into the workforce after graduation.
- Prioritize services for job retention and advancement for young New Yorkers in low-wage, part time, and/or gig employment.
- Invest in research and evaluation to establish best practices for serving OSOW young adults and to foster seamless connectivity between programs that serve this population.
- Create a robust and centralized system for employer engagement to facilitate relationships between employers, providers, and young New Yorkers.
- Centralize and specify responsibility for coordinating OSOW services within the Mayor's Office.
In addition to its recommendations, Connecting Our Future presents unprecedented detail on the city's OSOW population—including demographics and causal factors. Among its findings:
- Over the decade prior to the pandemic, the city's OSOW population declined by nearly 40 percent, largely due to sustained improvements in the high school graduation rate and consistent job growth—but even before COVID-19, one in eight 16 to 24 year-old New Yorkers were OSOW
- Those that remained OSOW as of 2018 were older and better educated than the population a decade earlier—nearly three in four have at least completed high school and about one in eight have a bachelor's degree
- The population remains overwhelmingly Black and Latinx, and are found in every neighborhood but concentrated in a number of economically distressed communities
- Contributors to disconnection from school and work include challenges in K-12 schooling, struggles with college completion and job retention, and absence of strong networks and support systems; given the demographics of the population, institutional bias is a factor as well