"In an increasingly global economy, and with retirement starting for the Baby Boomer generation, Congress has indicated a strong interest in ensuring that today's young people have the educational attainment and employment experience needed to become highly skilled workers, contributing taxpayers, and successful participants in civic life. Challenges in the economy and among certain youth populations, however, have heightened concern among policymakers that some young people may not be prepared to fill these roles. The employment levels for youth under age 25 have declined markedly in recent years, including in the wake of the 2007-2009 recession. Certain young people--including high school dropouts, current and former foster youth, and other at-risk populations--face challenges in completing school and entering the workforce. While the United States has experienced a dramatic increase in secondary school attendance in the past several decades, approximately 9% of youth ages 18 through 24 have not attained a high school diploma or its equivalent. In addition, millions of young people are out of school and not working. Since the 1930s, federal job training and employment programs and policies have sought to connect vulnerable youth to work and school. Generally, these young people have been defined as being at-risk because they are economically disadvantaged and have a barrier to employment. During the Great Depression, the focus was on employing young men who were idle through public works and other projects. The employment programs from this era included an educational component to encourage youth to obtain their high school diplomas. Beginning in the 1960s, the federal government began funding programs for low-income youth that address their multiple needs through job training, educational services, and supportive services."
CRS Report for Congress, R40929