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Bill supports out-of-school time programs that develop youth career skills and opportunities.

Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021 Introduced in Congress

Press Release

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — and Reps. Josh Harder (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) — along with Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Lisa McClain(R-MI) — formally introduced The Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021 (S. 1696/H.R. 3342) today. The legislation will support out-of-school time programs that build knowledge, skills, and enable learning experiences that will help youth prepare for the 21st century workforce and boost their economic potential over a lifetime. The bill addresses inequities that have become even more prevalent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — addressing the skills gap and supporting skill building programs and career experiences and opportunities starting at an earlier age through job placement.

“I hear from young people about their hopes for the future, which include contributing to their communities and getting good jobs. And I hear from employers that they need help getting connected to great employees. That’s where afterschool and out-of-school time providers can play a role in helping young people gain skills and make connections to mentors, opportunities and local employers,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “My bipartisan bill would help support youth success by teaching young people about different career paths and workforce readiness skills.”

Due to the ongoing pandemic, young people face an ever-changing labor market and an uncertain educational outlook. Research estimates that in a matter of months, COVID-19 has erased ten years’ progress in reducing the national youth disconnection rate with now over 4.4 million young people (ages 16-24) neither working or in school. Afterschool and Summer learning programs like the ones offered at Boys & Girls Clubs will be critical as youth-serving providers aim to make up for significant learning losses, skills building and the social emotional development impact caused by the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, 75% of youth expressed concerns over whether they would have the necessary skills and confidence to prosper at a job. By expanding the reach and scope of youth development programs that impact more than 10 million school-age children and teens, programs can support and build a diverse and skilled workforce that is ready to contribute and strengthen the country’s economy.

"Preparing our kids to successfully contribute to our economy helps keep America strong,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “A well-educated, well-trained workforce is a key component to future economic development. This legislation is great news for South Carolina and an important investment in the future of our nation.”

"The pandemic has widened the education and skills gap experienced by too many of our country’s young people, especially our students of color. If we are to not only respond but fully recover, further investments must be made in workforce development and emotional wellness programs that prepare our young people for the future today," said Jim Clark, president and CEO at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “The Youth Workforce Readiness Act recognizes the time kids spend afterschool and during the summer, to develop these skills, as critical for ensuring equity for all young people. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Smith, Graham, Wyden and Collins to address the challenges facing kids and teens and giving them the tools they need to achieve great futures.” 

“Investing in our kids is a no-brainer. This bill will make sure our kids learn the skills they need for long and successful careers,” said Rep. Harder. “As we rebuild from the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we get our kids ready for their futures, and that means making sure they’re learning both in and out of the classroom.”

"Setting our country's kids up for success requires investment in career development and education at a young age," said Fitzpatrick. "I am proud to work with Congressman Harder and partner with the Boys & Girls Club of America, a truly remarkable organization, to find bipartisan solutions like the Youth Workforce Readiness Act that give American kids the tools to accomplish great things."

The bill establishes a competitive grant through the U.S. Department of Labor to support youth-serving, out-of-school time organizations providing programs focused on four overarching pillars of youth workforce readiness:

  • Essential-Skill Development: supporting social emotional development through every developmental stage in both formal and informal learning experiences.
  • Career Exposure: targeted programming through community business partnerships, providing discovery opportunities, career assessments, planning, and insights into both traditional and non- traditional career fields.
  • Employability & Certification: opportunities including interviewing, resume writing, financial literacy and certifications in specific areas that will help youth land their first job.
  • Work-Based Learning: opportunities to apply skills in real-life, hands-on work experiences through local community business partnerships.
"Even before the pandemic, the number one request we heard from South Carolina teen Club members was the need for workforce-based programming that provided the necessary skills and experiences needed to empower and prepare them for a successful career,” said Greg Tolbert, president of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Upstate in South Carolina. “Our Club recognizes how critical workforce development programs like ours will be as we address education and skills gaps exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. We are thankful for the leadership of Senator Graham in addressing this issue and for supporting South Carolina kids’ futures.”

“The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities thanks Senator Smith for her commitment to changing the lives and future opportunities for the youth in our state and around the country,” said Terryl Brumm, CEO Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. “This bill is an investment in a transformational and effective program model that will support achievement of essential skill-building starting at an early age when we at Boys & Girls Clubs know we can make a difference. Even throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen firsthand that providing a safe environment where young people are engaged and challenged to build and practice essential skills, ensures that they can reach their full potential and are well prepared to enter the workforce strengthening the economy today and into the future.”

“California is anticipating a big skills gap in the workforce by 2025, a gap that will be even wider due to coronavirus,” said Kelly Wilson, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy. “Congressman Harder’s leadership in advancing youth-focused policies, like the Youth Workforce Readiness Act, demonstrates his commitment to ensuring our young people are better prepared to fill the gap, and contribute to our communities and our economy. We’re excited about the opportunity the YWRA will bring to public-private partnerships in Tracy and throughout California.”

“Even before the pandemic, our Club youth utilized workforce programming in order to access critical skills, experiences and opportunities to help them jump start their own careers,” said Bob Kreamer, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs. “Now, with their lives upended due to school and business closures, the coming summer months will be critical as our youth aim to make up for lost time. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act would help our Club reach even more youth, giving them access to influential programming, mentors and opportunities to help them achieve their own great futures. We’re incredibly grateful for the continued leadership and dedication of Congressman Fitzpatrick for his unwavering, innovative support of Pennsylvania’s youth.


About Boys & Girls Clubs of America
For 160 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America ( has provided a safe place for kids and teens to learn and grow. Clubs offer caring adult mentors, fun and friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours. Boys & Girls Clubs programming promotes academic success, good character and leadership, and healthy lifestyles. More than 4,700 Clubs serve 4.6 million young people through Club membership and community outreach. Clubs are located in cities, towns, public housing and on Native lands throughout the country, and serve military families in Boys & Girls Clubs of America-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide. National headquarters are located in Atlanta. Learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of America on Facebook or Twitter.


Media Contacts 

Amy Becker
Boys & Girls Clubs of America




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