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More young West Virginians out of school, not working

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About 56,000 teens and young adults in West Virginia are neither in school nor at work, which could lead to a life of chronic underemployment, according to a new Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults are in the same boat.

Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count, said the economic and social costs can be "staggering" when one in four young people is neither in school nor working.

"Community leaders, policymakers and advocates must work to ensure every young person in West Virginia can get meaningful work experiences and be on a solid path to graduation, post-secondary training and a good job," Hale said in a news release.

The report cited greater competition from older workers for a scarce number of entry-level jobs. Nationally, only about half of young people ages 16 to 24 had jobs in 2011, compared to 60 percent in 2011. In West Virginia, only 40 percent of youths had a job in 2011, compared to 53 percent in 2000.

According to a news release from Kids Count, young people are missing the chance to build knowledge and their job readiness skills by not holding "starter jobs."

"All young people need opportunities to gain work experience and build the skills that are essential to being successful as an adult," Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a news release. "Ensuring youth are prepared for the high-skilled jobs available in today's economy must be a national priority, for the sake of their future roles as citizens and parents, the future of our work force and the strength of our nation as a whole."

The report also found that more than 20 percent, a total of 1.4 million of the unemployed youths cited, have children of their own. The report also had several recommendations, such as a national youth employment strategy to streamline systems and provide flexible financial aid.