Nonprofit Provides Skills to Tackle Youth Unemployment

Philanthropy Roundtable believes every American should have the freedom to reach his or her full, unique potential and achieve economic security. The Roundtable supports organizations that eliminate barriers to upward mobility, expand opportunity and reward hard work and perseverance. 

As a result of school closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of young people have become disengaged from education at potentially high costs for their futures. As students leave high school classrooms without a clear post-secondary pathway, many will be excluded long-term from family sustaining wages and the American dream, and will instead exist at the margins of the economy.  But organizations like Jobs for America’s Graduates are working to set young people up for success by collaborating across government, business and community leadership to align education with employment. 

For over 40 years, Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) has served the most vulnerable young people in America, helping them stay in school, graduate and transition into the working economy and post-secondary education. JAG operates in 1,500 locations across 40 states, where organization leaders have seen firsthand the deleterious effects of the pandemic on students – everything from increased dropout rates to learning loss and an increased achievement gap. Moreover, a 2021 McKinsey & Company report shows the pandemic had an impact not just on academics but also on the broader health and well-being of students, with more than 35% of parents very or extremely concerned about their children’s mental health. Despite these effects, the JAG class of 2020 achieved a 96.7% high school graduation rate and its unemployment rate was three times less than the national youth unemployment rate, which is a whopping 30% among 18- to 19-year-olds.  

Photo courtesy of Jobs for America’s Graduates

JAG’s program starts as early as 6th grade, when specialists offer counseling, skills development, career association and experiential learning to improve academic performance, school behavior, attendance, confidence, participation and self-esteem. This support during the middle school years provides students with the freedom to explore and experiment with career options. The early exposure to potential careers creates positive associations, which come in handy in the high school setting, where stress about the future can rob students of the joy of discovering their unique paths. The program combines in-classroom support with project learning, competency-based curriculum, summer employment training and support from caring adults. The support continues 12 months post high school graduation to ensure students have the resources they need to succeed during the next leg of their journey. 

JAG’s programming is connected to a broader strategy called “Youth Opportunity and Outcomes 2024.” The organization is determined to bring opportunities to tens of thousands of additional young people.  JAG lays out its strategic goals in a three-year plan that prioritizes opportunity and outcomes for young people and pledges investment in its 40-affiliate national network. Organization leaders expect the plan to help today’s young people for years to come. 

The “Youth Opportunity and Outcomes 2024” strategy will have four driving priorities: 

  • Invest in the network: The organization is committing to invest further in the development of its affiliates and its staff. 
  • Serve more young people: JAG’s goal is to serve 150,000 young people annually by 2024-2025. 
  • Tell the JAG story: JAG leaders are making an investment to lift the organization’s brand as a program that works in a time of great need while providing leadership development and civic engagement to amplify young people’s voices and personal success. 
  • Better outcomes through enhanced services: JAG is focused on increasing students’ skills through innovative partnerships and technology, preparing them to enter the workforce and advance in careers with the opportunity for success and upward mobility. 

These strategic goals are designed to take advantage of the current worker shortage, as employers urgently seek new hires for better jobs that include accelerated career pathways and access to additional education and training. In this fashion, JAG intends to seize the best labor market opportunities in recent history, ultimately helping provide young people with the skills and tools to have success in their careers – and reach their unique American Dream.   

Interested in helping accelerate this organization’s impact? Please visit JAG or reach out to Philanthropy Roundtable Program Director Erica Haines. 

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