Disconnection in Michigan is still a community issue that needs to be addressed

More than one in eight youth is disconnected from work and school in Michigan. How can we address this disconnection rate?

The “Promising Gains, Persistent Gaps: Youth Disconnection in America” report by Social Science Research Council (SSRC), published March 2017, shares the state of youth disconnection based on surveys from 2015. Nation-wide, the 2015 youth disconnection rate is 12.3 percent. This number breaks down to one in eight youth. For Michigan, there is a 13 percent disconnection rate for youth ages 16-24, which is higher than the national average. In addition, for Michigan, the black disconnection rate is roughly double the statewide rate, demonstrating a need to focus on and support this particular population in Michigan. Rural areas (counties with no cities larger than 10,000 people) also tend to have higher rates of disconnection for youth, in general.

According to the SSRC report, “Disconnected youth are teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working.” Disconnection can have a negative effect on young people and has a lasting effect with individuals for the rest of their lives, often leading to lower incomes, higher unemployment rates and more negative physical and mental health outcomes. This ends up affecting not only the young person, but also has impacts in the community and, over time, our larger society.

Michigan State University Extension provides some recommendations that complement the conclusions in the SSRC report to help address the disconnection rate.

  • Connect youth to programs in the community where they can interact with mentors or other caring adults. 4-H programs offer an outlet for positive experiences and opportunity with other adults who can help expand the youth’s network. Serve as a mentor or volunteer within these programs to share your knowledge with the younger generation.
  • Support post-secondary education and training, but not necessarily a four-year degree. Four-year college degrees are not viable, or necessary, next steps for all young people; however, post-secondary education is important. Apprenticeships, on-the-job training programs or certification courses can help with workforce training and disconnection.
  • Consider transportation or child care challenges that might influence young people learning or working in the community. Without assistance, these barriers can often prevent young people from being involved and create a cycle of disconnect.

The solution for support for disconnected youth comes from not only the social, educational and youth-development organizations in the community, but from the business sector as well. Each organization has the ability to support young people with positive opportunities to grow and “get their foot in the door” within an industry and community.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth career preparationmoney management and entrepreneurship programs, read the 2016 Impact Report: “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Employment.”

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