As Nevada continues to diversify our economy and get our fellow citizens back to work, we believe that the discussion about the outlook of Nevada’s future must begin with the state of our education system. The number of high school drop-outs in our state remains at staggering proportions and the unemployment rate for youth stands at 17.3 percent. We cannot continue to accept these sobering statistics. We must work to change the future – and we believe we have begun to do so for at-risk high school students.
We are pleased to say that we have launched Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) in Nevada. JAG is an innovative non-profit program that has been credited with changing the lives of nearly three-quarters of a million young people across the country by helping them stay in school and move on to pursue higher education and/or gainful employment. The results of the program have been so inspiring that Nevada became one of the most recent states to adopt the JAG model to serve as a life line for at-risk youth in our state. The original JAG model was launched in 1979 in Delaware and has since been adopted by 32 states, including Nevada.
The JAG model consists of a comprehensive set of services that applies a holistic approach to assisting students. The components include: classroom instruction, competency-based curriculums, adult mentoring, advisement and support, summer employment training, student-led leadership development, job and postsecondary education placement services, 12-month follow-up services, and an accountability system.
The curriculum equips students with a minimum of 37 employability competencies, intensive career exploration and developmental opportunities. Because the goal is not only to graduate our students, but to also ensure their success after high school, the placement portion of the JAG program pairs students with specialists who identify entry-level job opportunities for graduates and assist them in exploring opportunities for postsecondary education.
The national Board of Directors includes governors from across the nation, and includes the largest number of governors to serve on any board other than the National Governors Association. We felt it was paramount for us to implement this program to address the dismal graduation rate and employment crisis among young people in our state. At 62 percent, Nevada has the lowest graduation rate in the nation. There has been an increase in the number of teenagers (16-19) who are not attending school and not working. In 2008 there were about 15,000 teenagers who fell into this category, compared to 18,000 in 2011. We cannot continue on this path.
During the height of the recession, the unemployment rate for youth 16-24 was 22 percent. The employment outlook for this population is improving, but education is a clear indicator of success.
It is evident that the more education a person has, the better the chance of employment. People with less than a high school diploma face the highest unemployment rate at 16 percent, while rates for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher are much lower at 5.3 percent. Job opportunities for youth are improving alongside the overall economy, but there is still much work to be done. The number of teens who were able to find summer jobs during the past four summers is approximately one-half of what it was before the recession.
We are confident that the JAG model will provide a much-needed remedy for some of Nevada’s at-risk youth. In July 2012, Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) contributed more than $500,000 to implement the JAG program in eight schools across our state – five in Clark County, two in Washoe County, and one in Lyon County, serving 11th and 12th graders. Thus far, the national JAG accreditation team has deemed Nevada’s implementation a success. Our goal is to fund 50 schools by 2014, which will serve 2,000 high school students. The program is estimated to deliver a cost savings of approximately $260,000 per student, when the cost of failure versus the benefits of educational success is considered. The program costs about $1,470 per student and can be recovered in just 14 months of full-time employment.
The viability of the JAG program hinges on partnerships and financial contributions from a number of entities within the community. For the upcoming school year, the Department of Education has allocated $750,000 in state funds and has partnered with DETR, which has contributed $261,000 for the new school year. Additionally, upon Board approval, the local workforce investment boards will also become partners. The Northern workforce investment board, Nevada Works, is expected to contribute $120,000; and the Southern workforce investment board, Workforce Connections, is expected to contribute $350,000. The first private partner to contribute to JAG in Nevada was AT&T with a donation of $60,000. We are grateful for the support of our community partners and we look forward to continuing to support our at-risk students.
The future of Nevada depends on building an educated workforce. We cannot afford to allow any of our young people to fall through the cracks. The JAG program has a solid track record and we are confident that we will see measurable success in Nevada in the near future.
Governor Brian Sandoval and Frank Woodbeck, director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation