WASHINGTON – Education and the Workforce Committee Vice Ranking Member, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05), joined Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member, Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Ranking Member, Congresswoman Federica Wilson (FL-24), and Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), to introduce the Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2023 (ODYA). This legislation addresses the challenges facing youth who become disconnected from both school and work.

Researchers estimate there were nearly five million young people, ages of 16-24, disconnected from school and work in 2020 and that this number is a significant underestimate. These young people—often referred to as “opportunity youth”—disproportionately come from communities marked by poverty, racial segregation, high adult unemployment, and low adult educational attainment.

According to the National Youth Employment Coalition, in the 5th District of Connecticut, 11% of individuals ages 16-24 are “opportunity youth.” Delivering funding for opportunity youth in the Fifth would help reconnect over 1,000 young people to their communities.

Their communities often lack strong school systems, afterschool programs, access to professional networks, and an adequate supply of entry-level jobs for youth. As a result, far too many young people disconnect from school and work. This disconnection imposes significant costs on affected young people, their communities, and the overall economy.

“Access to community-based programs to build skills outside of the classroom can be essential for the success of young adults across our nation. By giving young people the opportunity to learn skills through summer and year-round employment, they will forge greater connections to the community and boost the economy,” said Vice Ranking Member Jahana Hayes (CT-05). “Young people from underserved neighborhoods are often labeled before being given the chance to define what success means. It is our responsibility to usher them towards healthy productive spaces to ease the transition from the classroom to the workplace.”

“It is our responsibility to ensure that all our nation’s young people have the opportunity to thrive—not just survive. The Opening Doors for Youth Act provides youth with a solid foundation of education and early work experience, as well as the skills they need to get on the path toward a good job and rewarding career. Investments made in youth employment programs not only provide youth across the country with their first jobs, but they also help employers build high-quality talent pipelines, and save our communities billions in spending down the road. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues to ensure this legislation is included in any bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reauthorization,” said Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03).

“As a lifelong advocate for our nation's youth, I believe every young person deserves a fair chance to succeed. From my early days as an educator to my present role in Congress, I've witnessed the untapped potential our children possess. I’m proud to support the Opening Doors for Youth Act and take a crucial step towards breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for our young people to flourish, ensuring that no child's future is limited by circumstances beyond their control. This investment in their future will steer them toward limitless growth and success while helping dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in communities across America,” said Ranking Member Frederica Wilson (FL-24).

“For as long as I’ve been involved in organizing and public service, we’ve been fighting for investments in our communities and opportunities for youth. I support the Opening Doors for Youth Act to reinvest in out-of-school, out-of-work opportunity youth, and in doing so, help create new pathways toward economic justice,” said Congressman García (IL-04).

The Opening Doors for Youth Act invests $6.75 billion over six years to help at-risk and opportunity youth gain their first employment opportunities and develop opportunities to successfully transition from school to work.

The legislation:

  • Helps in-school youth access summer employment opportunities to remain connected to the education system and avoid involvement in the criminal and juvenile justice system;
  • Provides out-of-school youth with year-round work experiences and work-readiness skills that are vital to longer-term improved employment outcomes; and
  • Establishes and expands youth employment programs through community-based organizations that provide at-risk and opportunity youth with comprehensive pathways to remain connected or reconnect to education and training systems in addition to the supportive services needed to overcome individual barriers to reconnection.

To read the bill text for Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2023, click here.

To read the fact sheet for Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2023, click here.

To read the section-by-section for Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2023, click here.