Discover more from The Up and Up
‘A big deal’: The US Department of Labor launches ‘Youth Employment Works,’ a national strategy to boost youth employment
And, as official vote data trickles in, a look at youth voter turnout in six key states.
When you think about the Department of Labor, you likely think about unions and collective bargaining – things like that, and not necessarily young people and where and how they fit into the US workforce.
But in reality, former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh spent a great deal of time in the role thinking about how to create career opportunities and pathways for young people – especially in a post-Covid economy.
In its latest push to increase career opportunities for young people, the US Department of Labor held an in person summit convening agency stakeholders, young people, business leaders, and philanthropic partners Thursday to launch “The Youth Employment Works” strategy – a whole of government initiative geared at creating career opportunities and pathways for 14-24-year-olds. The event was one of Walsh’s last in the position, before he stepped down at the end of last week.
In his own words, “that’s a big deal,” Walsh said while speaking to summit attendees in what was one of his last speeches as a Biden administration official.
The strategy is the first federal national youth employment strategy in two decades, Walsh said, and it will focus on collaboration across communities inside and outside the federal government to engage with and provide pathways for the 4 million young people in the United States who are currently disconnected from school or work.
“In government we need to center young people in our workplace policies. Businesses need to invest in career training and pathways for young people,” Walsh said Thursday.
According to the Department of Labor, the ‘Youth Employment Works’ strategy is threefold, including what it’s calling a “No Wrong Door” policy that will work to ensure every entry level opportunity for young workers is a good one, collaboration between the public and private sector to build youth career pathways, and paid work experiences so that those who cannot afford to work for free are able to secure the entry level experience necessary and are not at a disadvantage compared to those seeking unpaid internships or work experience.
“This work is important for the future of our economy. This work is important to the President of the United States of America. This work should be important to every single congressional member of Congress both in the Senate and the House,” Walsh said at the event.
“We need to make sure that these historic investments that Congress approved, the president pushed on, are making historic investments in good jobs. We need to make sure as we create these jobs in this country, in this economy that’s moving forward, that these are good jobs,” he added, referencing job opportunities coming out of legislation including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act.
But beyond creating the jobs, Walsh said the government needs to make sure eager young people know about the opportunities available to them and are prepared to take them on.
“We need to make sure that you have a workforce that’s ready to go, and this summit is going to show us we have young people ready to be trained and skilled and apprenticed and opportunities to get in different industries,” he said.
Thursday’s summit and the Department of Labor’s strategy launch is one recent example of a Biden administration priority to connect young Americans to career opportunities. As The Up and Up covered, there’s been a push to connect young Americans to federal government tech jobs, amongst other sectors, too.
Enjoying The Up and Up? Subscribe here to receive new posts in your inbox 📥
There were six states where more young people under the age of 30 voted in 2022 than in 2018
With so much of the political conversation already focused on 2024, it seems like the 2022 midterms were forever ago. But if you think back to the fall, in the immediate aftermath of the midterms, there was heightened attention on young people – especially young Democrats who were praised for helping the party secure critical wins. In a speech addressing Democrats’ history defying victories, President Joe Biden himself even thanked young people for turning out.
After Election Day, I wrote a piece for Teen Vogue highlighting young voters’ stark support for Democratic candidates, perhaps due to the party’s position on a number of key issues: access to reproductive healthcare, college affordability, climate change, and gun safety.
While at the time, youth vote enthusiasts praised young people for turning out, some critics lamented that youth voter turnout was actually pretty low – and they weren’t wrong. But it's not that simple.
As the official vote data from last fall comes back, Veteran Democratic strategist and CEO of TargetSmart Tom Bonier’s been keeping tabs. I checked in with him to learn more.
“The reality is, if you look now with the data, nationally the youth vote wasn’t great. Democratic turnout in general wasn’t great. It was just really good in the places where it mattered, where it needed to be,” Bonier said.
Bonier called attention to the fact that for years leading up to the 2018 midterms, youth voter turnout was exceptionally low. But in 2018, there was historic youth voter turnout, when an estimated 28% of young people voted. And in 2020, an estimated 50% of young people voted – an almost record breaking number.
Bonier described youth voter turnout in midterm elections as “consistently low, low, low over decades,” and then in 2018 nearly 30%.
“If that’s the benchmark,” he said, “any states where the youth vote exceeded that [in 2022] is just unthinkable.”
According to Bonier’s analysis of the vote data, of the 41 states where Bonier has compiled data so far, there were six states where more young people under the age of 30 voted in 2022 than in 2018: Nevada, Arkansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and New Mexico.
“If you look at Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, that tells the story of how the Democrats not only held the Senate but added a seat, and how Democrats took a trifecta in Michigan, took the Governor’s seat in Pennsylvania,” Bonier told The Up and Up.
“Democrats defied history and exceeded expectations, and it was largely in these states,” he said. “As these numbers show, that was driven by younger voters turning out. To me, that’s an important fact that hasn’t been reported enough.”
Youth vote in the news 🗞
Young voters can help Democrats. Will enough of them cast ballots in Wisconsin Supreme Court race?, Kelly Meyerhofer and Hunter Turpin for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Student loan impasse threatens Biden promise to young voters, Alex Gangitano and Brett Samuels for The Hill
Gen Z and millennials seek state, local office in Virginia, Charlotte Rene Woods for Richmond Times Dispatch