Young people in Pennsylvania and nationwide are experiencing a drought of opportunity, which is only magnified by military cutbacks.
The military accounts for roughly one out of every 100 jobs. Though, for the population that tends to join the military — predominantly young, white men with only high-school educations — military jobs could be 10 times more important, said Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center, a policy research organization in Harrisburg.
“Young people for whom the military was sometimes the best option actually face a double whammy right now because of military cutbacks and because of federal and state policies that shrink good jobs for young people without a college degree,” he said.
Herzenberg did cite the state’s new transportation bill for its potential to create jobs for some of the same people who might be considering the military.
However, he said rising college costs, the loss of manufacturing jobs and wage stagnation compound problems for this group.
Education is another concern.
Students are entering and leaving high schools underprepared, said Christina Theokas, research director of The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C. advocacy group.
The group’s 2010 “Shut Out of the Military” study reported about one in five high-school graduates do not meet the minimum score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a test known as the ASVAB, to enlist in the Army. Minorities usually perform worse.
“The reality is, if they can’t meet that bar, they are clearly underprepared in reading, math and problem-solving skills,” she said. “It’s going to make getting any job difficult.”
Educators should take notice, Theokas said.
“High schools have thought the military is that back-up plan for kids who aren’t doing so well,” she said. “That’s really never been true … We can’t continue the fallacy that it’s an option available to everyone.”
Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or firstname.lastname@example.org