Saving Disconnected Youth

By Naomi Dillon

The U.S. Department of Labor announced in January it was halting enrollment into the Job Corps program until the end of the fiscal year -- and possibly longer. It was an unprecedented move for the nation’s largest workforce training program for at-risk youth, a sudden and painful decision made as administrators faced a $60 million budget shortfall.

Although questions loom about what precipitated the program’s financial woes, the news was yet another setback for a growing segment of the population that analysts have termed “disconnected youth” or “opportunity youth.”

Definitions and figures vary, but disconnected youth are generally recognized as those between the ages of 16 and 24 who don’t have a job, aren’t in school, and lack a strong support system. In other words, they are not connected to any of the anchors of a functioning society: employment, education, family, or social services.

Not surprisingly, this group has grown in recent years.

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