State Sen. Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria) sought local insight from social service groups, businesses and young people about what changes are needed to help boost youth employment opportunities in central Illinois.
The 37th District Senator teamed up with Katie Kelly of the Peoria Police Department to host the “State Task Force on Developing Opportunities for Youth & Young Adults Who are Jobless and Out-Of-School” hearing on July 19 in Peoria.
“Area organizations that work with youth, local businesses, and youth themselves are being asked for their suggestions about what role we – as citizens, civic leaders and business people – can play in helping young people find employment opportunities and encourage their further involvement in our communities,” Weaver said.
Kelly, a Management Analyst with the Peoria Police Department, said the Task Force is researching program and policy best practices at the local, state and national level to provide opportunities for youth who are out of school and unemployed. The information from this public hearing will be sent to Task Force members statewide, and will be included in a report to state lawmakers later this year.
“We want to showcase the life experiences of our youth, and the expertise and insights held by our local stakeholders, for both the Task Force and our local leaders,” Kelly said. “The Peoria area has great models that we believe can and should be shared and supported at the state level to help this next generation successfully engage in the workforce and our community overall.”
The University of Illinois at Chicago is working with the Task Force to collect data and conduct research into the issue. They provided unemployment statistics on youth in Peoria County from the American Community Survey:
- 11,022 (49 percent) of all youth and young adults (ages 16 to 24) are jobless in Peoria County, and 3,125 (13.69 percent) are jobless and out-of-school.
- Of the teens ages 16-19 in Peoria County: 3,850 (64.1 percent) white teens, 1,718 (78.9 percent) African American teens, and 422 (81 percent) Hispanic teens are jobless.
- Of the young adults ages 20-24 in Peoria County: 2,126 (26.3 percent) white young adults, 1,643 (52.5 percent) African American young adults, and 269 (35.2 percent) Hispanic young adults are jobless.
Weaver said Kelly brings an important perspective to the Task Force “because she recognizes the importance of community development, and the need to provide youth with opportunities and alternatives.”
“Bringing more jobs to our communities is just the first step in this process. We also need to consider factors like education, training, interviewing support, access to technology, ability to get to and from a job, etc.,” said Weaver. “This is important because jobs can be so much more than just a paycheck. Jobs teach skills, boost self-esteem, foster a sense of accomplishment, and encourage interaction with – and investment in – one’s community.”
Also attending the Task Force hearing was State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria).
“Thank you to the Task Force for bringing this hearing to Peoria. Young people throughout Illinois face significant challenges when it comes to completing their education and finding their place in the workforce. Peoria is no exception,” said Koehler. “It’s vitally important that we continue our focus on ensuring young people graduate from high school and get a post-secondary credential in order to be successful, productive adults.”
State Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) was not able to attend the Task Force hearing, but said he supports the Task Force’s work.
“This hearing is a great opportunity to provide feedback for legislators serving on the Task Force in developing improved policies for youth and young people who are not in school and jobless. While I am unable to attend due to a commitment made prior to the scheduling of this hearing, please know that Peoria testimony will be shared and magnified as work continues for our Task Force. Your participation is critical in providing a downstate perspective to our work,” said Spain.
The “State Task Force on Developing Opportunities for Youth & Young Adults Who are Jobless and Out-Of-School” is the result of a Senate Resolution adopted by unanimous votes of the House of Representatives and the Senate in June 2017. Its goal is to examine and develop programs to address the growing numbers of out-of-school and jobless youth in Illinois. Several meetings of the Task Force have been held in Chicago, and more meetings are to follow in other communities across the state.