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State Task Force Tackles Youth Joblessness In Rockford

Peter Medlin
State Task Force on Developing Opportunities for Youth and Young Adults Who Are Jobless and Out-of-School

In 2016, more than 10 percent of all 16-24 year olds in Illinois were both jobless and out of school.

State Sen. Dave Syverson is part of the state task force working to identify the barriers of employment holding back young adults. They met with community leaders in Rockford this week. Syverson says it's an issue far more complex than simply sending state money.

There are also a disproportionate number of black and Latino teens (16-19) and young adults (20-24) who are jobless and not in school.

The task force points to research from the American Community Survey Public Use Files which shows 10.4 percent of white young adults aged 20-24 were jobless and out of school in 2016. That compares to 26.7 percent of black young adults and 16 percent of Latino young adults.

"At some point we have to hold somebody accountable for the fact that we put billions of dollars into these programs in the last 20 years, and they're telling us the results are as bad as they were 20 years ago," Syverson said. "Something is not working."

The meeting highlighted several ways to potentially help the situation including promoting and investing in established community groups and job apprenticeship programs.

Joseph Rayford is a peer advocate at Youthbuild. It's an organization that works with young adults in academic programming and teaches construction skills. He says fixing the employment problem starts with leaders in the community connecting with the young adults who face it.

"Be a little bit more patient and cooperative with these kids," Rayford said. "A lot of these [youth] don't truly value life because they don't know anything beyond what they see."

Statewide, there were 167,037 youth and young adults out of work and out of school in 2016.