The Opportunity Movement

Devoted to closing the Opportunity Divide

Monthly Archives: June 2012

16% vs 84%

The numbers are shocking.  A study highlighted in the New York Times this week revealed that only 16% of recent high school graduates not enrolled in college are working full-time.  An additional 22% are working part-time (often because they can’t find full-time work) and most believed they would be unable to get good jobs without further education, inaccessible for many.

Where does that leave us?  It leaves us with an unforgivably high percentage of young adults who lack a path to economic self-sufficiency, and whose talent is going to waste.  And with such low odds for this generation of young people, the message to the next generation is clear: if you don’t plan – or can’t afford – to go to college after high school, don’t expect much for yourself.

This wasted potential seems especially frustrating when you consider how avoidable it is.  There are many jobs in this country that do not require four-year college degrees, and many that require them even though they are unnecessary.  With some additional training, through a vocational program or through an employer, many of these young adults could not only fill those jobs, but excel in them.

Take, as an example, Samantha Lewis, a graduate of Year Up Bay Area.  Before she started the program, Samantha, a 22-year-old high school graduate with no college degree, was unemployed and homeless.  Her talent and hard work during the program ultimately earned her a permanent position at Wells Fargo – a position for which her supervisor had previously been seeking a candidate with a college degree and 10 years of experience. 

Compare the 16% in the New York Times with the 84% of Year Up graduates (also high school graduates without college degrees) employed or attending college full-time within 4 months of completing the program.  The second number should show you that these young adults have the talent and motivation to succeed in the workplace and build meaningful careers.  What they lack is the opportunity to do so.  It is critical that we make these opportunities accessible to them – for these young adults, these companies, and our nation as a whole. 

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