Bill supports out-of-school time programs that develop youth career skills and opportunities

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Josh Harder (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Lisa McClain (R-MI) along with Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Susan Collins (R-ME) recently introduced the Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021 (H.R. 3342/S. 1696).

The legislation will support out-of-school time programs that build knowledge, skills, and enable learning experiences that will help youth prepare for the 21st century workforce and boost their economic potential over a lifetime. The bill addresses inequities that have become even more prevalent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — addressing the skills gap and supporting skill building programs and career experiences and opportunities starting at an earlier age through job placement.

"Setting our country's kids up for success requires investment in career development and education at a young age," said Fitzpatrick. "I am proud to work with Congressman Harder and partner with the Boys & Girls Club of America, a truly remarkable organization, to find bipartisan solutions like the Youth Workforce Readiness Act that give American kids the tools to accomplish great things."

“Investing in our kids is a no-brainer. This bill will make sure our kids learn the skills they need for long and successful careers,” said Rep. Harder. “As we rebuild from the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we get our kids ready for their futures, and that means making sure they’re learning both in and out of the classroom.”

“I hear from young people about their hopes for the future, which include contributing to their communities and getting good jobs. And I hear from employers that they need help getting connected to great employees. That’s where afterschool and out-of-school time providers can play a role in helping young people gain skills and make connections to mentors, opportunities and local employers,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “My bipartisan bill would help support youth success by teaching young people about different career paths and workforce readiness skills.”

"Preparing our kids to successfully contribute to our economy helps keep America strong,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “A well-educated, well-trained workforce is a key component to future economic development. This legislation is great news for South Carolina and an important investment in the future of our nation.”

Due to the ongoing pandemic, young people face a ever-changing labor market and an uncertain educational outlook. Research estimates that in a matter of months, COVID-19 has erased ten years’ progress in reducing the national youth disconnection rate with now over 4.4 million young people (ages 16-24) neither working or in school. Afterschool and Summer learning programs like the ones offered at Boys & Girls Clubs will be critical as youth-serving providers aim to make up for significant learning losses, skills building and the social emotional development impact caused by the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, 75% of youth expressed concerns over whether they would have the necessary skills and confidence to prosper at a job. By expanding the reach and scope of youth development programs that impact more than 10 million school-age children and teens, programs can support and build a diverse and skilled workforce that is ready to contribute and strengthen the country’s economy.

“Even before the pandemic, our Club youth utilized workforce programming in order to access critical skills, experiences and opportunities to help them jump start their own careers,” said Bob Kreamer, CEO of North Penn Valley Boys & Girls Club. “Now, with their lives upended due to school and business closures, the coming summer months will be critical as our youth aim to make up for lost time. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act would help our Club reach even more youth, giving them access to influential programming, mentors and opportunities to help them achieve their own great futures. We’re incredibly grateful for the continued leadership and dedication of Congressman Fitzpatrick for his unwavering, innovative support of Pennsylvania’s youth.

"The pandemic has widened the education and skills gap experienced by too many of our country’s young people, especially our students of color. If we are to not only respond but fully recover, further investments must be made in workforce development and emotional wellness programs that prepare our young people for the future today," said Jim Clark, president and CEO at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “The Youth Workforce Readiness Act recognizes the time kids spend afterschool and during the summer, to develop these skills, as critical for ensuring equity for all young people.”

The bill establishes a competitive grant through the U.S. Department of Labor to support youth-serving, out-of-school time organizations providing programs focused on four overarching pillars of youth workforce readiness:

  • Essential-Skill Development: supporting social emotional development through every developmental stage in both formal and informal learning experiences.
  • Career Exposure: targeted programming through community business partnerships, providing discovery opportunities, career assessments, planning, and insights into both traditional and non- traditional career fields.
  • Employability & Certification: opportunities including interviewing, resume writing, financial literacy and certifications in specific areas that will help youth land their first job.
  • Work-Based Learning: opportunities to apply skills in real-life, hands-on work experiences through local community business partnerships.