Did you know that 70 percent of Pennsylvania's jobs require workers who have a high school diploma plus some postsecondary education? Long gone are the days where a good work ethic and a strong back were enough to ensure young people earned a wage that would comfortably support them and their families.
A perfect example is my hometown of Johnstown. When I was growing up, there were many opportunities for young people with just a high school diploma, or even for those who dropped out, to enter the steel mills and to work there for their entire lives earning a good wage. But the steel mills are gone now and so are those opportunities. To be successful in today's information-based economy, young people must graduate from high school college- and career-ready, and transition into postsecondary education -- be it community college, 4-year college, technical school, industry training, apprenticeship program, or the like.
But what happens to all the young people who drop out of high school? Every year, more than 30,000 teenagers (that's 166 every school day) don't make it to graduation with their class. These high school dropouts earn less money than their diploma-holding peers, are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to get in trouble with the law. In addition, these young people are a drain on our economy. In fact, every year they consume $80 million more in publicly-funded programs than they contribute in taxes.
We recently launched a statewide advocacy campaign called Operation Restart to address the needs of high school dropouts. The goal of Operation Restart is to develop and advance a public policy agenda to ensure all young people (to age 25) who lack a high school credential have access to high-quality educational options that lead to a high school and postsecondary and/or industry credential that prepares them for a self/family-sustaining wage occupation.
Please join us in this important work. For additional information on Operation Restart, check out the website at – www.operationrestart.org.
William J. Bartle, Youth Policy Director, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children