Ready, Connected, Supported: A Framework for Youth Workforce Development and the YES Project
In a nation built on the promise of opportunity, too many young people struggle to find a solid foothold in the world of work. The youth unemployment crisis is complex, pervasive, and persistent, with wide-reaching consequences for states and communities across the national and global economies. In the U.S., recent annual estimates indicate that 1.8 million young people ages 16-24 are available and actively searching for work, but are unable to secure a job.
This working paper begins with an overview of the YES Project's guiding framework—the "Ready, Connected, Supported" framework and is followed by a brief review of existing literature outlining the importance and changing nature of work in the 21st century as well as a portrait of the youth employment crisis in the U.S. today. This background serves as context for the Ready, Connected, Supported framework, situating the three domains that make up the framework within the extant literature and research.
When young people are ready, they are equipped with the skills, education and credentials, and commitment to lifelong learning necessary to excel in the workplace. To thrive, young people need a combination of technical skills that are relevant for their chosen career pathways; social, emotional, and cognitive skills (such as the ability to solve problems, collaborate, and demonstrate persistence) that allow them to achieve complex tasks or objectives; and career management skills, such as adaptability and understanding of how one’s own interests and strengths fit with career paths and the labor market. These readiness skills are essential for young people to adapt to changes in their lives and the world of work as they continue to pursue their goals.
When young people are connected, they can access and engage with the systems and institutions (e.g., school, workplaces) and opportunities and experiences (e.g., career development and work-based learning) that facilitate positive career-related results, like landing their first job or securing a promotion. Being connected also means that young people have access to relationships and networks, including but not limited to, individuals with high social capital relevant to their career needs and goals. Connectedness includes ongoing and active engagement with the world of work and one’s own career. This means that young people must actively engage in their career development through exploration, decision-making, commitment, implementation, and adjustment
When young people are supported, they have the range of relationships and resources they need to be successful leading to and through employment. Young people require various forms of support such as direct assistance with their basic needs (housing, transportation, food) that allow them to better navigate their career opportunities. They also need access to information; mentorship, emotional support, and constructive feedback; and healthy learning and work environments. The key is having a comprehensive web of support, filled with caring relationships across contexts that provide an array of assistance tailored to each young person’s unique strengths and needs at each stage of their career development. Such a web of support comes from a variety of sources, like mentors, teachers, parents, supervisors, and neighbors.
Flanagan, S.K. & Castine, E.B. (2020). Ready, connected, supported: A Framework for Youth Workforce Development and the YES Project. Washington, DC: America’s Promise Alliance.
The 5 Promises
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below: