In the United Kingdom and some Asian countries, they call them “NEETs” − young people ages 16 through 24 who are not in education, employment or training. Some Spanish-speaking countries use the term “ni-ni” as short for ni estudia ni trabaja, neither study nor work.
At the Labor Department’s Job Corps program, we don’t have an equivalent acronym for disconnected youth. We call them our prospective students − and there are too many.
A recent report from The Opportunity Nation cited 5.8 million Americans ages 16 to 24 as neither working nor in school. That’s nearly one of every seven young Americans. How much does that cost taxpayers? About $93 billion annually and $1.6 trillion over their lifetimes in lost revenue and increased social services.
At Job Corps, we welcome this disconnected population at our 125 centers across the nation, and we offer them connections: to certifications and credentials, to high school diplomas and their equivalencies, to apprenticeships and internships, and ultimately, to full-time employment.
There are many great examples of this on our Facebook page, but I like this quote in the Daily Astorian (an Oregon newspaper) from 22-year-old Seth Wannamaker, formerly homeless and now part of the “Bridges R Us” work crew after graduating from the Tongue Point Job Corps Center. “Because of Job Corps and what I learned,” he said, “I went from living under the bridge to working on top of the bridge.”
If you know a disconnected young adult who wants to connect, please tell them about us. They can connect with us on the phone at 800-733-JOBS, on the Web and through Facebook. We’ll help them trade their acronyms in for something better and just as concise: a job.
Grace Kilbane is the national director of Job Corps.