On one hand, Minnesota has one of the highest rates in the nation of teens and young adults with jobs. On the other, even Minnesota's youth employment rate has declined by historic levels, according to a new report entitled Youth and Work from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota.
Over the past decade, teens ages 16 to 19 went from mostly working to mostly unemployed; 63 percent had jobs in 2000 but only 42 percent did in 2011. (The U.S. rate was only 26 percent in 2011.) The last recession cut the number of jobs overall, and pushed some adults into lower-wage jobs that teens would otherwise pursue. Of course, some teens have opted not to work because they want to focus on their studies and pursue volunteer opportunities that will help in their college applications.
Particularly troubling, though, is the estimated 57,000 youths in Minnesota who are neither in school nor working. These "disconnected" youth, the report states, are setting themselves up for a lifetime of low wages and limited opportunities.
A press release on the report highlights Courtney Gallagher, a student at the University of Minnesota who said she struggled to find jobs before college but took part in Teach for America, a gateway program to teaching careers. The early experience helped her set a career path, but even that is no guarantee of success after her graduation this month.
“I have made all the right decisions so far in my life, but still experience the affects of the economy," Gallagher said. "I can only imagine the struggles other youth face when they are unsure of what kind of work they’d like to do, and can’t afford to pay for college to find out. It is my hope that more career pathways are created for youth, so low wage jobs or college are not the only options.”