There are approximately 42 million people between 15 and 24 years-old in America, which accounts for 12% of the entire population. The Cincinnati Metro Area has approximately 2.2 million residents, and of those, 14% can be defined as youth. While that may not seem like a high number, it is worth distinguishing this specific population for several reasons.
First, this age cohort – identified as Generation Z or also known as post-Millennials – is either currently a part of the workforce or on the cusp of entering it. This population and future generations will be a part of creating new workplace norms and responsible for driving the economy.
Second, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of this population are racial or ethnic minorities, which makes Gen Z one the most diverse populations. Reviewing Table 1, you will note a slight decrease of population between 2015 and 2021 while overall diversity has risen. This trend mirrors the general population of the region. As employers seek to redefine their policies and embed DEI & B (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) in organizational practices, it will be valuable to hire employees who are technologically skilled, socially and politically informed, and prepared to create an inclusive and welcoming culture to meet the needs of their staff.
Table 1. Demographic Analysis of Age 15 to 24 Cohort, Cincinnati MSA
|Population Cohort Age 15 to 24 years
|American Indian or Alaskan Native
|Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
|Two or More Races
Source: Center for Research & Data Analysis of Emsi Burning Glass
Third, while the Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone in all realms of life, youth have been severely affected as unemployment rates skyrocketed in industries such as Accommodation and Food Services, Arts, Entertainment, Recreation and Retail Trade, according to Mathematica. Notably, these industries often employ young people, as the positions are typically entry level roles that 14 to 24 year-olds can obtain and successfully maintain, regardless of education level. When analyzing the occupational cluster within Accommodation and Food Services for example, we see that youth contribute to 42% of the total workforce.
Table 2. Top Industry Sectors for Youth Workers, Cincinnati MSA, 2021
|Number of Youth Workers
|% of Youth Workers in Occupation Total Workforce
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
|Personal Care and Service Occupations
|Sales and Related Occupations
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
|Entire Cincinnati Economy
Source: Center for Research & Data Analysis of Emsi Burning Glass
As businesses begin to reopen their doors and employers look to hire, staying the course of the tried-and-true method with youth workers may just be what companies need. This may be especially important for companies focused on seasonal work, such as amusement parks and outdoor facilities where the summer months are the most demanding. Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEP), often operated by select nonprofit organizations and city organizations within communities, can provide employers the opportunity to provide in-depth youth work experiences.
For example, the City of Cincinnati’s Youth2Work program through the Cincinnati Recreation Commission offers youth a variety of employment opportunities with local organizations during the summer months. According to the Urban Institute, SYEPs can assist in improving school attendance and graduation rates while reducing interactions with the criminal justice systems. Additionally, some SYEPs include job or career readiness training for involved youth which further develops social and professional skills for these valuable employees.
One of the more lasting effects for employers is the opportunity to educate and train individuals for the future. As more Baby Boomers retire and the Great Resignation continues, youth – specifically recent graduates and ‘disconnected youth’ (young people who are not in school or working) – could be a possible solution to fill this gap.
According to The Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board. The top five in-demand industry sectors and career pathways are: Administrative Professionals, Advanced Manufacturing, Construction, IT, & Transportation, Distribution and Logistics. Ohio Means Jobs Cincinnati-Hamilton County, a partner of the American Job Center, provides specific jobs within these industries including Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Production/Operating Workers, Construction Laborers, Computer User Support Specialists, and Truck Drivers. Healthcare is not mentioned in the in-demand industries because Medical and Nursing Assistant jobs are deemed critical. Within Ohio, under the guidance of Governor DeWine, critical job areas are grouped into 8 career clusters:
- Children and Community Health
- Early Child Education
- First Responders
- Lead Abatement
- Mental and Behavioral Health
- Wellness Research and Technology
If employers develop partnerships with school districts, colleges, and non-profits that invest in youth, it is possible to create career pathways through education and training that focus on filling the gap of critical and in-demand jobs. A complete list of Ohio’s In-Demand Jobs (including critical jobs) can be found here. The Kentucky Career Center and Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board identify similar industries and in-demand jobs.
To ensure the rights and safety of youth workers are protected, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has created laws that states and employers must abide by. Often referred to as ‘Minor Labor Laws’ or ‘Child Labor Laws,’ each state outlines minimum age requirements, prohibited occupations, and general guidelines. YouthRules! – an initiative through the Department of Labor – provides information for employers, educators, parents, and working youth. The linked guide distinguishes between age groups, such as 14- to 15-year-olds and 16- to 17-year-olds with reference to nonagricultural jobs, in addition to working hours for youth during and out of school. Once a youth is 18 years-old, the Federal child labor provisions do not apply.
In many states, including Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, the minimum working age is 14 years-old, with anyone under the age of 17 requiring a work permit (age and schooling certificate). In Ohio, a completed work permit requires the applicants’ information including signatures from a parent/guardian, school official, medical physician, and the hiring employer. It is worth noting that minor work permits are not mandated by FLSA, but rather required by states, and so it is in the best interest of employers to be aware of their state’s requirements and policies. For specific information regarding minor labor laws for Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, click on the following links:
Creating work environments where employees feel they are respected, treated equitably, and a part of the team are key factors to ensuring employee satisfaction and positive workplace culture. For some youth, entering the workforce can be intimidating, especially if it is their first job. In addition to learning their individual responsibilities, there are also numerous unwritten workplace customs. While an onboarding process is essential to companies, establishing a formal mentor program can greatly impact the success of all involved. Published by the Institute of Education Science, Mentoring: A critical support strategy for youth career engagement and workforce development, recognizes that mentors can enhance a youth’s employability by providing guidance to address professional and personal challenges in addition to career readiness skills.
The current workforce has seen unexpected shifts – largely impacted by COVID-19 – and the complications this has had on youth have been disconcerting. Employers in a position to hire can once again turn to youth workers to fill job openings, however, goals, practices, and hiring protocols may need to be revaluated to appeal to Generation Z.
Employing youth workers will also require employers to safeguard youth by following the FLSA and state specific requirements. Creating success on the job through mentoring can provide hard and soft skills for youth workers. Partnerships with educational institutions to ensure in-demand and critical jobs continue to be filled with skilled workers is another strategy that employers could implement for their benefit.
In short: the age old saying that ‘Youth are the Future’ continues to hold true.
About the Author:
With over 10 years of experience developing partnerships within the education and non-profit industry, Rabina is passionate about bringing community together for positive change. Beginning her career as an educator in Toronto, Canada, Rabina quickly learned the value and importance of education in creating community impact, which led her to pursue a graduate degree in Adult Education and Community Development.
In recent years, Rabina has focused her skills on training new talent within the workforce, specifically through developing internships and building mentor relationships. Rabina also brings a strong foundation and knowledge base in program development and management. Supported by her education, professional experience, and community focus, Rabina is excited to help companies reach their goals.