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Many young people 16 to 24 years of age drop out of high school and are unemployed in cities around the country. Large agencies in education and workforce development often operate independently without a common purpose, but the city of Los Angeles’s plan demonstrates how committed mid-level managers encouraged educational and workforce bureaucracies and other agencies to work together on these issues.
Six years ago, the Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and the city of Los Angeles made getting young people back to school or work a priority. They began shifting their focus from contractual obligations to outcomes.
As a first step, an advisory committee retained a consultant to prepare research on the problem. The resulting research found that nearly 20 percent of the city’s 500,000 residents aged 16 to 24 were out of school and out of work and that young people who dropped out of high school had lower employment, lower earnings, and an increased risk of falling into poverty than students who finished high school.**
Representatives of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, and the Los Angeles Community College District soon joined the committee. Agencies began to dedicate more resources to keeping young people in high school.
The Community Development Department took the following steps:
In addition, the city’s Workforce Investment Board and the LAUSD:
The advisory committee is advocating for funding for high school counselors and specialists in working with high school dropouts. It advocated a restoration of funding after proposed cutbacks would eliminate 100 of about 600 school counselor positions.
Leaders of other school districts, workforce investment boards, and economic development agencies must make this population a priority and find resources to implement policy goals. Mid-level managers have the knowledge and commitment to lead efforts to change programs, but they need CEO support and willingness to clear hurdles. Results should be evaluated on an ongoing basis.
One of the biggest hurdles is getting agencies to stop thinking of “their” programs and “their” students. Instead, they ought to focus on the best fit of programs and young people. Often, the biggest impediments to good youth programs are adult egos.
For information, contact Robert Sainz at 213-359-9218 or firstname.lastname@example.org .