President Barack Obama allocated nearly $5.5 billion in his recently proposed fiscal year 2017 budget to help more than one million young people gain crucial work experience in order to obtain their first job.
Obama’s $4.1 trillion budget will focus, in part, on creating grants and apprenticeship programs in order to help people between the ages of 16 and 25 gain work experience via an internship or summer job, aiming to boost the global competitiveness of the American economy and provide access to stable jobs for a larger portion of the workforce.
The Office of the White House Press Secretary pointed to the difficulty of entering the workforce for youths as the driving force behind the initiative in a press release Feb. 4.
“For too many young people, getting a first job — a crucial step in starting their career — is challenging,” the press release said. “Once a young person gets their first job, it is much easier to get the next one.”
According to the World Bank and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percent of unemployed youth in the United States has decreased from 17.4 percent in 2011 to 12.2 percent in June 2015. Unemployed youth is defined as those people ages 15 to 24 who are without work but available and seeking employment.
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Director Anthony Carnevale expressed appreciation for the president’s job initiatives. However, Carnevale predicted the budget will not be implemented: Thus far, the Republican-led Congress has not asked any representatives from Obama’s administration to speak to them about the budget.
“It’s dead on arrival. Neither the House nor Senate committees are going to invite the Obama administration to come up to the Hill and talk about their budget,” Carnevale said. “They basically took it and threw it in the trash.”
Carnevale noted that Obama’s proposal still holds meaning, defining the Democratic Party’s platform on issues affecting young people. According to Carnevale, Obama’s using his role to set the tone of this conversation is especially important in an election year.
“It expresses an agenda for the Democratic Party and state-of-the-art thinking on that side of the aisle,” Carnevale said. “He wants to connect education and training to jobs. It is probably the most directly job-related budget he’s produced.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Labor explained in an interview with The Hoya that the budget’s $5.5 billion allocation is focused on helping young people receive work experience and increase their ability to break into and succeed in a chosen career field.
“The president’s been a strong endorser of people going to college,” the DOL spokesperson said. “Once they come out, students should have a job that pays off so that they could seek opportunities but also punch their ticket to the middle class.”
The DOL also promoted the initiative as a key to the continued global competitiveness of the American economy.
“There’s a big appetite in the market for highly skilled young people to enter the workforce,” the DOL spokesperson said. “Especially as there are more people that retire, we need a constant influx of young talent to fill the jobs in the future.”
Specifically, Obama is proposing $3 billion in funding for “talent hotspots,” which would group together employers to train new members of the workforce to be competitive. In addition, Obama has suggested spending $1.5 billion to fund “career navigators,” who would reach out to unemployed or underemployed people and help them begin a new career path.
Carnevale also noted Obama’s budget is starting a process that would fund programs to help match college students and others with jobs in which they can excel. This would allow students to see what employment awaits them if they choose a particular major or career path, which he believes would provide value.
According to Cawley Career Center Director Mike Schaub, approximately 90 percent of Georgetown seniors from the class of 2015 held at least one internship by graduation, making the impact of the budget on Georgetown unclear, as the university provides career and internship match services through the career center.
Carnevale said despite the focus on connecting young people with their first jobs, the president’s main priority should still be to help all people, young or old, in finding work. According to Carnevale, young people receiving their first job make up only a small part of newly hired employees.
“I think connecting people in general to jobs is important,” Carnevale said. “The hiring of young people into their first job is a very small part of the hiring every year that’s done in the U.S.”
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