We’ve written before about Memphis’ opportunity youth – the estimated 30,000 to 45,000 young people aged 16 to 24 who are not in school and are unemployed. On December 11, we hosted “The ABCs of Career and Technical Education” to examine the reasons behind such high numbers of youth disengagement and discuss existing and emerging programs that provide them with the means to explore career, technical, and entrepreneurial pathways beyond their K–12 educations.
Local youth face a myriad of personal, bureaucratic, and systemic barriers to educational attainment. They can easily become trapped in a feedback loop in which past traumas, the struggle to meet basic needs, and the lack of structure in their lives contribute to a vague, uncertain perception of the future and dampens their desire to push forward. This applies even more for those who cannot or do not want to attend college, which is often framed as the only path to a successful career. Organizations that provide career and technical education (CTE) help young people realize that a college degree is only one path to realizing their dreams, and not a requirement for success
During our discussion, we were able to learn about three organizations in Memphis and what Shelby County Schools is doing to expose young adults to more opportunities. Each of these organizations are dedicated to building relationships with local youth, helping them to overcome their barriers, and providing them with access to opportunities for rewarding, living-wage employment.