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White House Council for Community Solutions Launches National Effort to Put Disconnected Youth on Pathways to Education and Work
Corporation for National & Community Service

January, 2012

In response to President Obama’s challenge to the nation to help every young adult find a pathway to long-term economic success, The White House Council for Community Solutions today announced it will join a diverse coalition of partners to launch a 100-day initiative to unite all citizens to go “All In” for youth.

Demonstrating the urgent need for broad national action and collaboration between private and public leaders in our communities, the Council released a new analysis showing that in 2011 alone, taxpayers shouldered more than $93 billion to compensate for lost taxes and direct costs to support the young people disconnected from jobs and school.

At least one in six young adults is disconnected from education and work, according to the report from Columbia University and CUNY/Queens College entitled, “The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth.” Projections show that over the lifetime of these young people, taxpayers will assume a $1.6 trillion burden to meet the increased needs and lost revenue from this group. You can view the analysis here.

“If we don’t act, the 6.7 million young adults who are out of school and work are set up to fail. Without an opportunity to learn critical skills and earn an income, these youth are less likely to become the kind of healthy, productive citizens that are crucial to the long-term strength and competiveness of our nation,” said Patty Stonesifer, Chair of the White House Council of Community Solutions. “From family to government – we all have a role to play to help disconnected youth. By shining a spotlight on this important issue, the Council and its partners hope to spur thoughtful community discussions and a national dialogue that leads to reconnecting these young people with the supports they need to move forward.”

While disconnected youth are not actively engaged in school or jobs, they represent untapped potential for our economy and society – and should be seen instead as “Opportunity Youth.” In fact, a new survey of disconnected youth by the America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and Peter D. Hart Research Associates shows that despite the many challenges they face, Opportunity Youth accept responsibility for their future and are hopeful and confident that with the right support they will be able to achieve their goals in life. While more than half of those polled are actively seeking full-time employment, Opportunity Youth said barriers impede their ability to work, including: family responsibilities (39 percent); lack of transportation (37 percent); and not knowing how to prepare a resume or interview (32 percent). You can view the research here.

To galvanize action by communities, businesses, non-profits, and government in sustained efforts to provide Opportunity Youth with critical mentoring and support, the Council and its partners created easy-to-use toolkits, including:

  • The Community Collaboratives Toolbox empowers communities to explore a new kind of long-term, cross-sector collaborative that takes advantage of data-driven decision-making. As communities must help more citizens with fewer resources, the kit provides case studies of needle-moving collaborative efforts in which communities as diverse as Atlanta, Boston, Nashville, Milwaukee, and San Jose tackle complex issues, from violence to low graduation rates by +10 percent. The toolbox was created by The Bridgespan Group in coordination with FSG (Foundation Strategy Group). You can find the toolbox here.
  • The Connecting Youth & Business Toolkit offers employers a guide for building sustained programs to provide low-income and disconnected youth with opportunities. There are three ways for employers to engage with youth: (1) soft skills development through mentoring; (2) work-ready skills through career days and job-shadowing; and (3) learn & earn programs that provide internships and permanent positions. The toolkit also helps employers better understand the benefits of supporting at-risk youth including, increasing employee engagement, customer loyalty, and employee retention. It was created by Gap Inc. in partnership with McKinsey & Company, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Taproot Foundation. You can find the toolkit here.

“These tools are designed to help organizations of all sizes make a long-term commitment to helping our young adults realize their potential – by providing them with the mentoring, training, or those first jobs that put them on a trajectory for lifelong success,” said Bobbi Silten, senior vice president, global responsibility and president, Gap Foundation at Gap Inc. “Whether you are in business, serve in the community, or work in local government, every American can make a difference in the life of a young person who is out of school or unemployed.”

To foster collaboration between all local organizations and businesses supporting Opportunity Youth, United Way Worldwide will work with local United Ways in approximately 30 cities and regions to host a series of Community Conversations. Throughout February and March, local United Way leaders will join with citizens of all walks of life to map out what they can do to offer the relevant education, training, and social supports young adults need for long-term employment success.

The Council will also work with Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) to communicate directly with young adults disconnected from school and work – and ensure that their voices and views are central to every community town hall-style gathering. YLI will identify local youth ambassadors – who effectively illustrate the potential Opportunity Youth offer to the nation when barriers to school and work are removed from their path – to serve as spokespersons and partners for this effort. The Forum for Youth Investment was a critical partner in planning this initiative, and will continue to support efforts to reach young people moving forward.

During the 100-Days effort, the Council and its partners will seek to catalyze new commitments from business, government, communities, and individuals. The initiative will culminate with a White House Summit for Youth, during which the Council will submit its final report to the White House.


About the White House Council for Community Solutions (The Council)

Created by an executive order of President Barack Obama in December 2010, the White House Council for Community Solutions works to identify effective community solutions and catalyze cross-sector collaborations to help our nation’s most at-risk youth succeed. By investing in what’s working and spreading those innovative solutions to more communities, we can connect more young adults to a brighter future. For more information, visit


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