How Can We Create Economic Opportunity for Young Texans?
This week, Texas hosted a jobs summit designed to strategize around solutions to rampant higher education debt and high youth unemployment in our state. With an entry fee of $85 dollars, the event was cost-prohibitive for many low-income students and young adults.
Given that young adults make up almost 40% of the Texas workforce, it is critical that their voices be heard as their success has broader implications on growing and sustaining our state’s economy. Recognizing the need for injecting more young adults into conversations affecting them most, Young Invincibles, a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to advancing economic opportunity and security for Millennials, asked young people from across Texas about their struggles finding a job.
Three young Texans — Eulalia from the Rio Grande Valley, Rho in Austin, and Summer in Houston— share personal stories that paint a stark picture for young adults wrestling with launching careers in Texas.
I grew up and went to school in an impoverished area, and I simply could not afford to “donate” my time in an internship to gain work experience. When I attended the University of Texas—Pan American, there were no paid opportunities that would help solve this problem for thousands of college students who were in similar situations.
After graduation, every employer I interviewed with said the same thing: “Your educational experience is great, but you don’t have workforce experience we are looking for.” I’d always walk away wondering how I would gain that experience if I’m never given an opportunity? A background in paid apprenticeships would have been a great help as I tried to explain my talents and competence to employers.
I am what some people call, DACAmented – a child of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program. My options for aid are slim, which is why I need an education that doesn’t land me in debt. I graduated high school with a top ten percent grant from the state of Texas to attend the University of Texas at Austin. That was not enough for me to afford college, so I started working during my freshman year. I was taking 18 credits and working nearly 40 hours a week part-time. Unfortunately, my job wasn’t willing to work with my school schedule. I was making enough money working overtime to pay for the miscellaneous college expenses, but the extra hours came at a cost: my GPA dropped considerably and I lost my scholarship.
If our federal government invested in debt-free education, maybe more of us could excel in college instead of worrying about work and school together.
Since I've graduated, I’ve learned first hand how easy it is to fall at or below the poverty line. The job market rarely offers job opportunities to better our society, and I've struggled to find jobs in Dallas that will allow me to both pay my bills and advocate for my community. After a stretch of unemployment, I’ve accepted a community organizing position doing the kind of work that matters most to me—knocking on doors, registering voters, and working to engage Millennials in the political process. In my line of work, money isn't the top priority, but I want to empower Dallas citizens to organize for the power to transform their communities.