Nevada and our nation currently face a daunting challenge that directly affects the ability of our young people to find work: the high number of high school dropouts. In today’s technology-driven world, a high school education is vital to future success.
In addition, both Nevada and the nation are experiencing the highest rate of youth unemployment in history. Currently, those ages 16 to 24 account for the largest portion of the unemployed American population.
Meeting the challenges of lowering the dropout and unemployment rates is daunting, but we have the ability to overcome them if we recognize effective ways to engage young people most at risk. One way is through Jobs for America’s Graduates, one of the country’s great success stories in helping to combat these critical issues our states and the nation face.
JAG initiatives serve youth in middle school, high school, alternative education programs and college, as well as young people who have left the traditional education system. The organization’s tried and proven models include counseling and guidance beyond the classroom, employability skills development, and experiential learning opportunities that raise academic performance, school behavior, attendance, confidence, participation and self-esteem.
For more than 30 years, the results have been consistent and compelling:
■ The graduation rate of JAG students was 94 percent for the class of 2012, the best in a decade, and the program has always averaged 90 percent or better.
■ The full-time jobs rate of employed JAG students in 2012 was 69 percent, compared with the national average of under 20 percent for this population.
■ The full-time placement rate of JAG students in 2012 was 89 percent. This is the percentage of graduates engaged in full-time employment or a combination of employment and postsecondary education.
■ The further education rate of JAG students in 2012 was 45 percent, among the highest in JAG history.
Nevada and Delaware are not often linked. Jobs for America’s Graduates and Jobs for Nevada Graduates have brought together the Nevada and Delaware governors — the authors of this article — to share the success story of JAG. We serve on the national JAG board with six other governors — Republicans and Democrats — because of our enthusiastic bipartisan commitment to the public-private partnership fostered by this program. Our board also contains leaders from some of America’s largest companies — many of which have operations in Nevada — as well as leaders from the nation’s education arena and community leaders.
Evidence compiled by independent research demonstrates that Jobs for America’s Graduates increases employment rates by a dramatic 100 to 300 percent for our most disadvantaged, at-risk and minority youth, one of the highest impacts ever noted by those conducting the study.
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office and the education and workforce leadership in Nevada have carefully looked at the options that most cost effectively and consistently address the serious issues of dropout rates and youth unemployment, just as Delaware did 33 years ago, when Jobs for Delaware Graduates designed and tested the first JAG model.
Jobs for Nevada Graduates was launched in seven schools for the 2012-13 school year and has already demonstrated remarkable impact in boosting student achievement, engagement and preparation for colleges or careers in Clark, Washoe and Lyon counties. With an additional appropriation from the Legislature and the use of federal job training funds available to governors, Gov. Sandoval is working to bring JAG to an additional 25 or more schools across Nevada over the next several months.
Moving forward, we will work to expand to more schools, aiming to dramatically reduce Nevada’s dropout and unemployment rates while boosting college enrollment and completion rates. The program will launch a statewide nonprofit organization, drawing upon Nevada’s business, education, workforce and community leadership to help mobilize the full range of our state’s resources and assets.
A wise man once said of public policy that there was a very simple approach for those in elected office: “Find out what works, and do much more of it.” The good news is that we do know what to do. There are solutions. What we need to do now is take what works and do much more of it — and so we shall, with Jobs for Nevada Graduates.
Jack Markell is governor of Delaware and the chair of Jobs for America’s Graduates. Brian Sandoval is governor of Nevada and the vice chair of Jobs for America’s Graduates.