Letter to the editor: Prioritize young adults in post-pandemic recovery

Recovery is an opportunity for a more inclusive economy," Jill Rizika, the executive director of Towards Employment, a Generation Work partner, outlined a strategy for ensuring that our post-pandemic economy works better for everyone. She highlighted the need to embrace the alignment of systems, the investments in human capital, and the scaling of proven practices to generate a more fair and equitable future for workers in our region. Generation Work is an initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation that launched in 2016 to improve education, employment and earnings outcomes for young adults. As partners in the Generation Work collaborative, we know firsthand the importance of the strategies Ms. Rizika and others have highlighted — and we see the consequences for young people if they are not connected to work or school during this critical time in their lives.

In 2018, Generation Work partner Youth Opportunities Unlimited worked with The Center for Community Solutions to better understand the lives of the nearly 21,000 young adults in Cuyahoga County who are disconnected from both the educational system and the labor force. The resulting research found that these young people were at risk for poorer economic, health and social outcomes over the course of their lives than their peers who had been connected to these systems. It also found that disengagement disproportionately impacts young men and people of color.

Given what we know about the negative outcomes experienced by young people disconnected from work and school, it will be vitally important to prioritize young adults — specifically young adults of color — in post-pandemic recovery efforts. Recovery must include specific strategies and resources to support young people or we risk not only their future, but our own.

Generation Work Provider Collaborative
Craig Dorn, president and CEO, Youth Opportunities Unlimited
Eric Morse, president and CEO, The Centers for Families & Children and Circle Health Services
Mary Kay Bitterman, executive director, technology academies, Cuyahoga Community College
Richard R. Frank, president and CEO, OhioGuidestone
Robin Smalley, director of program services, Towards Employment