Twelve percent of youth from 16 to 24 years old in the San Joaquin Valley are unemployed or enrolled in school, according to a new report.

California State University, Fresno’s Institute of Public Anthropology has partnered with researchers from the University of California, Davis, for the report, looking at how disconnection from school or work can have a detrimental effect on youth lives in the Valley.

“Understanding the institutions and networks young people have available to them in their local communities, how they use these institutions and networks and how these can be leveraged to best support attachment to school and work is imperative to promoting economic opportunity for young adults,” said Anne Visser, report author and assistant professor at UC Davis, in a statement.

Statewide, 8.2 percent of youths don’t have a job or go to school. Data for the study came from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other resources.

According to the report, Latinos make up about 60 percent of the total number of youth in the Valley who are neither employed nor enrolled in school, followed by non-Hispanic whites at 22 percent.

The report said that youths in the Valley who experience disconnection from school or the job market are more likely to face poverty, long-term unemployment, drug use and other problems when they become adults.

The report said the Valley’s economic climate is largely to blame for this disconnection. Due to the recession, there are fewer job opportunities and slow economic growth.

Many young adults have difficulty getting jobs and don’t have the money they need to enroll in college classes. Some may get financial aid but others fall through the cracks.

“Transportation is also a really big issue here,” said Angela Barginear, Career Center Technician at West Hills College Lemoore. “Some students might otherwise be able to go to school or a get a job but they don’t have the transportation to get there.”

Barginear said she also believes some students don’t get jobs because they haven’t developed a valuable skill set or, if they have, don’t know how to advertise them properly.

“Some of them don’t have the ability to articulate the skills that they do have, which can be detrimental during a job interview,” she said.

Barginear said West Hills College Lemoore offers several programs to help students be successful in school. One is the state-funded Extended Opportunity Programs & Services program, which helps disadvantaged students access and complete a higher education program.

Students receive access to counseling, educational supplies, priority registration, book services and more.

“We try to do everything we can for our students to be successful,” Barginear said. “We do everything possible within our means.”

Youths of high school age may be kept from attending school due to negligent parents. Sometimes parents feel education isn’t important and bar their kids from going to school.

Some students do initially enroll in school but drop out or are expelled due to bad behavior, poor performance, a lack of self-esteem or other issues.

“It has to do with the environment they’re raised in, a lack of motivation or previous education,” said Wesley Forbes, a counselor for Hanford West High School.

Kindergarten to 12th-grade schools are making efforts to help youths that do enroll in school stay there. Several Kings County districts are employing restorative justice programs aimed at resolving behavioral problems without having to resort to suspension or expulsion.

Although schools are seeing headway being made in this area, Forbes said that in order to fully resolve this issue, it would be a massive undertaking that would require educators, legislators and other agencies to come together.

“It’s something that would probably involve a lot of people,” he said. “It would be good if we could come up with something. This is clearly a problem that needs to be solved.”

The report is one of a series of research briefs on youth economic opportunity as part of a five-year project between UC Davis and Fresno State.

Students help with conducting research, including observation and in-depth interviews with local organizations and young Valley adults.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2429 or jluiz@hanfordsentinel.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @JosephL_HS.

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