About 17 percent of young Floridians are "disconnected" from education and work, a rate slightly higher than the national average, according to a new study.
More than 6 million teenagers and young adults nationwide are out of school and out of work, according to the Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
About 351,000 Floridians ages 16 to 24 fall into the gap, said Susan Weitzel, director of the Florida Kids Count campaign.
She said that figure as a recipe for lifelong struggle.
"What we see is lack of the ability to gain esteem during those critical years when all children really need those kinds of supports to come into their own," Weitzel said.
In Florida, Wmany retirees and older adults fill jobs traditionally sought by young people.
Early work experiences are part of the coming of age process, said Laura Speer, national Kids Count director. A first job is about more than just a paycheck, she said, it's educational.
"You have to show up to work on time, how to work with a boss, how to get along with your co-workers, how to solve problems without your parents there to do it for you," Spear said. "These are really important skills that you get with your first job."
In Florida, 18 percent of youths ages 16 to 19 are employed. Weitzel attributes the relatively low number to the increased demands placed on teens completing high school to be eligible for college.
"What I see across the board are just less students capable of working and managing going to school all day and having that extra job that at one point in time was more common for all of us."
Fifty-nine percent of young adults in Florida are employed. Solutions offered in the report for pairing them in employment include education reform to focus more on the skills needed for work, more assistance for young people to afford a higher education and microenterprise funding for young-adult businesses.
The report found he number of young people disconnected nationwide is at its highest level since World War II.
The full report, "Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," is online at aecf.org.
- Florida News Connection