Generation Work: Working Together to Improve Young Adult Employment

The Great Recession was devastating for many, but as the recovery continues, teens and young adults are struggling to keep up. A new report from Policy Matters Ohio found in Cleveland, those in the 18-29 age range had an unemployment rate of 13.8% in 2013-2015, five points higher than the total population (8.8%). While most in this age group have increased educational attainment, many are employed in low-wage jobs that lack career ladders. The most common jobs for young adults have a median salary of $22, 176 which is lower than the average of all workers, $32,596 and much lower than the median of older workers, $39, 739. These gaps are glaring when the data is disaggregated, with stark disparities for young people of color across employment, education and wage rates. These issues have not gone unnoticed, and leaders in Cleveland are organizing to create a solution.


Generation Work-Cleveland/Cuyahoga County is a collaborative effort to improve employment and earning outcomes for young adults in Cuyahoga County. Launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Generation Work includes a growing list of partners including Cuyahoga County, Ohio Means Jobs Cleveland/Cuyahoga County, the Fund for Our Economic Future, Towards Employment and Youth Opportunities Unlimited.  “We are proud to have the Annie E. Casey Foundation investing in our community. Access to national experts and peers across the country has helped us to think through how we can best improve outcomes for young adults—especially young adults of color,” says Jill Rizika, Towards Employment’s executive director.


Generation Work-Cleveland/Cuyahoga County is building strategies that address both supply and demand side challenges. To accomplish this partners Towards Employment and Youth Opportunities Unlimited are implementing nationally tested best practices such as sector specific pipeline building and positive workforce development at OhioMeanJobs’ Young Adult Resource Center. Partners are also working to create a culture of trust and transparency in both the management and leadership within the partners to create a more aligned and equitable system to better service young adults throughout Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.


Last month, Cleveland played host to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Generation Work cross-site convening. Local partners joined national partners, Aspen Institute, MDRC, and Child Trends, in addition to representatives from the four other Generation Work partner cities, Hartford, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Seattle, to reflect on best practices and lessons learned from the first year of implementation of Casey’s Generation Work initiative.