Connecting Opportunity Youth to Strong Pathways to Adulthood and Career Success

Apprentices working on computers

On any single day, approximately 5 million young people ages 16 to 24 are not in school or working in the United States. These youth have the potential to thrive and succeed but far too few are engaged in programs or services that can help further their growth and development. And, while rates of youth disconnection fell between 2010 and 2018, the COVID-19 pandemic erased much of this progress. By some estimates, the number of disconnected youth in the U.S. will top 6 million by 2022 and could swell to almost one-quarter of all young people in the coming years, creating an uncertain future for these youth and our country. These concerns are particularly salient for youth of color, who have the highest rates of disconnection.

The PROMISE Center is committed to finding ways to more effectively meet the needs of all opportunity youth, including the most vulnerable who are often screened out of the best known programs. To this end, AIR staff are working to understand the challenges and barriers that opportunity youth commonly face when seeking services, and identify promising strategies to effectively re-engage and help these youth succeed in skill-building programs. Our goal is to identify opportunities to significantly expand the supports offered and evidence base on effective strategies to support opportunity youth’s transition to adulthood. We also plan to leverage recent discoveries in brain science, socioemotional development, and trauma-informed care to promote stronger success among opportunity youth.

The PROMISE Center works to develop, build, and measure the impact of innovations that can increase economic opportunity and mobility in the U.S. at scale. The PROMISE Center is directly supported by the AIR Equity Initiative, AIR’s $100+ million five-year investment to advance equity in several important areas: workforce development, education, public safety and policing, and health.