||Since the 196Os, the U.S. Department of Labor has underwritten a variety of programs and strategies designed to help youth make first connections with the labor market. These programs have been enacted under a succession of policy mandates, administrative structures, funding levels and political philosophies. Thus, their focus, scope and results have shifted, often dramatically, over the years.
In the sixties, the programs were, in many ways, experiments; their impetus ranged from labor market concerns to interest in poverty reduction. In the mid-seventies, widespread youth unemployment emerged as a full-fledged policy issue, and major resources were expended through the Youth Employment and Demonstration Projects Act (YEDPA) to explore systematically the potential of federal/local programming to combat youth employment problems.
In the late eighties and early nineties, the focus shifted to issues of international competitiveness and the capacity of the nation to produce new workers capable of meeting the challenges of the workplace.
Attempts to develop useful knowledge about how well youth employment programming has succeeded reflect the relative newness of the field and the varied environments in which such programming has grown up. Although the field has benefitted from research efforts of varying intensity and quality, the base of knowledge on which policy, legislative and program decisions are built remains incomplete, and is often not well known among decision-makers and practitioners.
The nineties will see continued and, indeed, heightened interest in finding effective ways to connect youth to the labor market--particularly the economically disadvantaged youth who are the major target of federally funded employment training efforts. Thus, it is essential to take stock of what we know, to view our current knowledge clearly and realistically, and to use it to forge better policies for the future.
This was the aim of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration when it undertook a project to conduct a broad review of what is known in the field, and contracted with Brandeis University's Center for Human Resources and Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) to design and carry out the work. Within this joint contract, P/PV assumed responsibility for organizing and overseeing the production of this review.