LEXINGTON, Ky. — The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that in May 2020, youth unemployment dramatically spiked to more than 25 percent due to COVID-19.
"One of the biggest challenges that we face is that young people are often hardest hit during economic downturns. So we saw a decade ago that that young people quite often are laid off first when the economy starts to slow,” explained Nicholas Wyman
Wyman has spent years helping businesses across many industries in Kentucky develop the next crop of young workers. He says it's more crucial now than ever for both the government and private companies to invest in youth workforce development.
"In Kentucky, advanced manufacturing is going very strong, automotive manufacturers, right across that sector, health, I.T. These are all industries that young people can get a start, so maybe it's a different way to enter the workforce, maybe your aspirations are to go to college, but maybe this isn't the best time. So if you can get yourself some work in an industry that you're interested in,” added Wyman
Wyman says jobs in the hospitality and retail fields were some of the hardest-hit industries by COVID-19 restrictions, and according to data Wyman is seeing, many of these same jobs were held by young people between 16 and 19 years old. One major workforce development initiative that Wyman recommends for Kentucky businesses is to invest in apprenticeships.
"Youth apprenticeships is something that provides a real opportunity, and it's important that companies keep investing in skills and post, I'd like to say post-COVID, but unfortunately we've still got ongoing effects that Kentucky is very robust,” mentioned Wyman
Wyman says while it will take some time, he believes the country will come out of this economic crisis stronger than ever, and he will attribute some of that success to employers across all industries investing in young workers.