In Maryland, 93,000 teens and young adults are neither working nor in school, a trend that threatens future financial stability and predicts chronic joblessness, advocates said Monday.
And unemployment among those ages 16 to 24 is the highest in the country since World War II, a Kids Count policy report shows.
Patrick McCarthy, president of the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation that compiles the Kids Count data, said young people, without education or experience, are the least likely to find jobs in a stagnant economy.
Entry-level jobs at fast-food restaurants and clothing stores, for example, tend to go to older applicants, the report showed. Meanwhile, many young people don't graduate from high school on time, aren't ready for college and don't have the 21st-century skills that businesses demand.
"All young people need opportunities to gain work experience and build the skills that are essential to being successful as an adult," McCarthy said. "Ensuring youth are prepared for the high-skilled jobs available in today's economy must be a national priority, for the sake of their future roles as citizens and parents, the future of our workforce and the strength of our nation as a whole."
According to data from the Advocates for Children & Youth, 14 percent of those ages 16 to 24 in Maryland are not in school or working.
But Maryland youths tend to fare better than teens and young adults across the country. About 68 percent of those ages 20 to 24 in Maryland worked during 2011, compared with 61 percent nationally. Of youths ages 16 to 19, 29 percent worked in Maryland last year compared with a national average of 26 percent.
According to the report, "Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," working at a young age helps individuals learn technical and social skills needed in the job market. Those without the experience are more likely to be unemployed later in life, the report said.
Nearly one in four young people are able to find work, compared to one in two a decade ago, said Patrice M. Cromwell, director of economic development for the Casey Foundation. The situation is more pronounced for minorities and youths from low-income families: Fewer than one in six black and Asian teenagers and one in five Hispanic teens worked in 2011.
Samaira Johnson, a 2011 graduate of the Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences, said she's applied for jobs at McDonald's, Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods, among a long list of businesses, but can't land a full-time job. She's able to work 10 hours a week as a youth ambassador for Baltimore's Safe and Sound Campaign.
Johnson, who lives on her own, said she wants to make enough money to pay for community college so she can study criminal justice.
"A lot of people think youth don't want to work, or we're just lazy," Johnson, 19, said. "A lot of us want to work. It's hard to get a job. People who already have jobs don't realize that. They look down on youth, like we don't want anything out of life."
Ernest Dorsey, assistant director for youth services at the Mayor's Office of Employment Development, said leaders in Baltimore are working to provide opportunities not available to youths in other cities.
The city invested nearly $2.5 million in Youth Opportunity Baltimore, which served 797 young people during the last fiscal year. The program helps teens and young adults who aren't working or in school find jobs, get training and obtain their GEDs.
A second program, YouthWorks, provided more than 5,000 young people with work last summer.
The city contributed about $1.6 million, in addition to money provided in salaries by various city agencies.
"This is a long-term investment," Dorsey said. "Our hope is this investment breaks the cycle of poverty."
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