ALBANY - Sixteen percent of teens and young adults in New York are neither in school nor the workforce, part of a national problem that could lead to "dire consequences" for the younger generation's financial stability, according to a new report.
The latest Kids Count report released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation said high school dropouts are having a harder time landing traditional entry-level jobs in retail and fast-food restaurants due to competition from older candidates with more experience. Front-line service providers said the recent recession has added to the problem.
"You're competing with people that are in the workforce now that have diplomas," said Jeff Nixon, youth services manager for the Buffalo Employment and Training Center. "You've got people with college degrees that are competing for some of these lower-wage jobs. And obviously for an employer, if they have a choice between somebody with a college degree and a kid that's a dropout, that's a no-brainer."
Nationally, there are 6.5 million youths 16 to 24 years old who are neither in the workforce nor in school -- about 17 percent of that age group, according to the report. New York accounts for 406,000 of those young people, according to the foundation.
The Baltimore-based group said the young people getting shut out of the market now can face problems as they grow older. "A generation will grow up with little early work experience," missing the chance to build knowledge and skills, the report said.
The Casey Foundation called for more sustained, coordinated efforts to boost youth employment. It praised the work of FEGS Bronx Youth Center, where young people get integrated help with academics and career services along with support services.
"When we tell young people, 'We're here to help you; we want to help you,' that means we stay with you through the good times and the bad times," said Courtney Hawkins, the organization's vice president for education and youth services.
Hawkins said that every youth's needs are different -- some have grade-school reading levels or trouble at home -- and the process can take years.
"They did more than just give me my GED, they encouraged me," she said. "They talked to me about my life after my GED and where did I want to go."