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Senator Tim Kaine introduces 'Opening Doors for Youth Act' to support at-risk youth

On Wednesday, Senators Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Laphonza Butler (D-California) introduced the Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2024 to help at-risk youth find summer or year-long jobs that can set them up for success in future careers.

The legislation would provide federal funding to local communities to create strategic partnerships with businesses to create job opportunities and provide career training, mentoring, financial literacy planning, and other skills and services to young people who are disconnected from both school and work.

“Young people are the future of our workforce and play a critical role in our economy. But at-risk youth often face barriers that make it difficult to start their careers, and there’s more we can do to support them,” Sen. Kaine said. “With the right resources, city governments, local workforce boards, school districts, and employers can work together to help close the employment gap for at-risk young people, which will strengthen our economy and help set these important members of our communities up for success.”

“Young people are facing life challenges tough enough to set anyone back, which is why it is incumbent on us to provide them with access to high-quality career development opportunities,” Sen. Butler said. “The Opening Doors for Youth Act invests in our future by connecting at-risk young people with the year-round tools, resources, and support they need to overcome obstacles and thrive in our workforce.”

According to the senators, young people who are out of school and work face significant barriers to success and are twice as likely to live below the federal poverty threshold and more likely than other youth to have a disability. Disconnection can leave young people without the entry-level work experience and post-secondary credentials they need to succeed in the workforce and with significantly fewer lifetime earnings than other workers, the senators said.

The Opening Doors for Youth Act expands employment opportunities by:
  • Authorizing grants to help communities create dedicated summer job opportunities targeting in- and out-of-school youth ages 14 to 24 to ensure that young people are connected to meaningful work-based learning opportunities.
  • Authorizing grants to help communities promote year-round employment opportunities targeting youth 16 to 24 who are out of school and work to ensure they are able to gain work experiences and work-readiness skills that are vital to long-term employment outcomes.
  • Establishing a community partnership grant program between local government and workforce boards, school districts, institutions of higher education, and support agencies for areas with high rates of disconnected youth that will provide comprehensive pathways for these young people to remain connected or reconnect to education and training programs as well as supportive services.

Ensuring youth employment opportunities are high quality by requiring programs to include:

  • Work-readiness and educational programs for youth to develop employability skills, like digital literacy programs;
  • Coaching and mentoring services for youth, such as resume development and networking;
  • Coaching and mentoring services for employers on successfully employing youth in meaningful work experiences;
  • Career exploration and college planning services;
  • Financial literacy education;
  • Supportive services, such as mental health counseling.