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Report Shows High Unemployment Among Tenn. Youth

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) â¿¿ Preparing Tennessee's youth to be more competitive in a tough job market requires a collaborative effort from different groups, say state lawmakers in agreement with a recent report.

The report released earlier this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count project called on businesses, governments, philanthropies and communities to work together to create opportunities that will benefit young people and build a stronger workforce for the future.

The report showed employment of youth ages 16 to 24 nationwide is at its lowest point in 50 years.

In Tennessee, fewer than one in four youth ages 16 to 19 were working last year, and only about 60 percent ages 20 to 24 were employed, according to the report.

It said part of the blame is the economic downturn that has forced adolescents and young adults to compete for entry-level jobs that older, displaced workers are also seeking.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Delores Gresham said Tennessee has passed education reforms that should help students perform better in school and hopefully be more competitive in the workforce, but she said "everybody has to do their part."

"It takes every one of us at every level to ... create opportunities for our young people," said the Somerville Republican. "We want our young people to succeed."

Linda O'Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, agreed.

"Preparing young people for successful employment requires a collaborative commitment on the part of families, schools, businesses and community organizations," O'Neal said. "We need to work together to provide youth with opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for them to become productive employees."

The report offered several recommendations that included exploring new ways to create jobs through the support of public and private investors, and employer-sponsored "earn-and-learn programs" that foster the talent and skills that businesses require.

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