One of the biggest challenges for regional workforce development boards has been focusing more on out-of-school than in-school youth, since the passage of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014.
Prior to the law’s signing, equal emphasis was placed on both groups, so the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County began working with partners to engage youth who are not in school and out of work.
The Seattle area's overall unemployment rate for people ages 16 to 24 is 13 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while the city of Seattle’s rate is 16 percent. Both rates are relatively good by national standards. But in neighborhoods in Seattle's Rainier Valley, the rate is 20.5 percent; in southern King County, it's 20.4 percent rate. Those figures are dismal and require innovative youth outreach.
“In the past, one strategy had been: Let’s serve the people who come through door,” Sarah Chavez, director of youth initiatives for the council, said in an interview.