Labor Leaders Introduce Bill to Strengthen Opportunity for Disconnected Youth

WASHINGTON – Tomorrow, Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), will introduce the Opening Doors for Youth Act (ODYA) (H.R. 4403)— legislation to address the challenges facing youth who lose connection from both school and work. The bill is also sponsored by Chairwoman Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment, Congressman Mondaire Jones (NY-17), and Congressman Jesús "Chuy" García (IL-04).  

Researchers estimate that there were 6 million young people, ages of 16-24, disconnected from both school and work in 2020. These young people, often referred to as “opportunity youth,” disproportionately come from disconnected communities, marked by poverty, racial segregation, high adult unemployment, and low adult educational attainment. Their communities often lack strong school systems, afterschool programs, access to professional networks, and an adequate supply of entry-level jobs for youth. As a result, far too many young people disconnect from school and work. Disconnection also imposes significant costs on affected young people, their communities, and the overall economy.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that all our nation’s young people have the opportunity to thrive—not just survive. The Opening Doors for Youth Act provides youth with a solid foundation of education and early work experience, as well as the skills they need to get on the path toward a good job and rewarding career. Investments made in youth employment programs not only provide youth across the country with their first jobs, but they also help employers build high-quality talent pipelines, and save our communities billions in spending down the road. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues to ensure this legislation is included in the upcoming, bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reauthorization,” said Chairman Scott.

“The past year has been tremendously harmful for millions of young Americans. According to a report from Bellwether Education Partners, between one to three million students stopped attending school during the pandemic. Disconnection from school or employment can have long-lasting consequences, which is why I am proud to join Chairman Bobby Scott in sponsoring the Opening Doors for Youth Act,” said Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee Chair Wilson. “This crucial legislation supports both summer and year-round employment for ‘opportunity youth,’ as well as community-based strategies to ensure that children remain on track to build successful and fulfilling careers.” 

“Every young person deserves the support they need to excel in the classroom, in the workplace, and in life,” said Congressman Jones. “But too often, the people most in need of this support are those most deprived of it, entrenching generational cycles of poverty and disconnection. The Opening Doors for Youth Act will change that by connecting our young people to educational enrichment, workplace training, and community-based support. I’m proud to join Chairman Scott in introducing this important bill to help ensure every young person can reach their full potential.”

“Communities like mine have suffered from disinvestment for decades, and young people have suffered the most from this lack of opportunity. Youth employment is a crucial part of the community reinvestment we need to build back better,” said Congressman García“I’m proud to join Chairman Scott in introducing this bill to improve existing youth jobs programs and promote economic justice for generations to come.”

The Opening Doors for Youth Act will help at-risk and opportunity youth gain their first employment opportunities and develop opportunities to successfully transition from school to work by:

  • Helping in-school youth access summer employment opportunities to remain connected to the education system and avoid involvement in the criminal and juvenile justice system;
  • Providing out-of-school youth with year-round work experiences and work-readiness skills that are vital to longer-term improved employment outcomes; and 
  • Establishing or expanding youth employment programs through community-based organizations that provide at-risk and opportunity youth with comprehensive pathways to remain connected or reconnect to education and training systems, as well as the supportive services needed to overcome individual barriers to reconnection.

To read the bill text for Opening Doors for Youth Act, click here.

To read the fact sheet for Opening Doors for Youth Act, click here.

To read the section-by-section for Opening Doors for Youth Act, click here.



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