Youth: No Decision About Us, Without Us

Youth Outmigration. 

Although the term was new to me, it turns out our family has experienced it firsthand.

It happens when young people fail to see opportunities in their communities and move out–typically to a larger community where they see more job potential.

Sadly it happened to our family as all three of our sons have now moved away from our hometown and don’t show any signs of returning.

This summer, US President Barack Obama addressed the issue of outmigration as well as other compelling and urgent issues relating to youth when his White House Council on Community Solutions released a paper providing practical recommendations and strategies that will be of benefit to any community wanting to do a better job of supporting young people.

Today, approximately 1 in 6 of 16-to-24-year olds in the US are disconnected from both school and jobs. In Canada, the statistics are only slightly better showing 13% of youth age 15-to-29 were neither enrolled in school nor employed.

The Council’s paper entitled “Community Solutions for Opportunity Youth” reported that youth want and have the energy to improve their lives and benefit their communities. In acknowledgement of this untapped potential, the Council referred to this population as Opportunity Youth.

The Council also identified three key principles and recommendations that will be fundamental to addressing the needs of Opportunity Youth.

Not surprisingly, the report emphasized that young people are key to the solution. As the youth themselves put it, “No decision about us, without us.”

Additionally, all sectors must unite to address the challenge. Families, communities, schools, employers, nonprofits, and the government must pull together in the same direction to provide the diverse range of services needed.

Lastly, in order to make the most effective use of limited dollars, policies and funding must be guided by accurate data about effective programs, supports, and services.

The Council also recommends four key strategies to ensure all young people can make progress on the path to prosperity. These include:
1. Drive the development of cross-sector community collaborative—These collaboratives use a common approach and embody a core set of characteristics to solve a range of social issues, including supporting youth.

2. Create shared national responsibility and accountability for youth—Coordinate and share rigorous data to shine a national spotlight on who these young people are, what they need, and what they are capable of doing.

3. Engage youth as leaders in the solution—This ensures that relevant, high quality, and increasingly effective programs and resources for youth are being created and supported.

4. Build more robust on-ramps for employment for opportunity youth—These initiatives need to be designed to meet the needs of communities and young people by linking education and training to local jobs.

Of course, none of this will be easy. However, communities who see youth as a precious resource for the future will understand there is no other choice. After all, Individuals and community groups working together has always been the best way to find new and effective solutions to local problems.

Posted on 08-19-12

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