The National Youth Employment Coalition

A Brief History of NYEC

NYEC’s ORIGINS In 1979, OIC of America and the National Child Labor Committee organized what would become the National Youth Employment Coalition. Then called the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, NYAC was organized and led by community-based organizations to support new federal youth-jobs legislation and to ensure that community-based approaches were an integral part of the delivery system. NYAC adopted these principles at its inception:

  • Everyone who wants to work should have the opportunity to do so.
  • Too many youth are out of the economy with little hope and few skills.
  • Youth employment services must be targeted to those that most need help.
  • Established organizations cannot adequately serve all youth.
  • A national youth policy must establish a long-term commitment to serving youth.

GROWTH In 1982, the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) passed with bipartisan support in Congress. Under JTPA, employment and training programs were more narrowly focused on job placement and meeting the needs of employers than under its processor, the Comprehensive Training and Employment Act. Long-term supports were cut back and performance contracting came into vogue. Now called the National Youth Employment Coalition, the organization received its first grant from the Ford Foundation to determine JTPA’s impact on young people and community-based organizations. The conclusion of the study was that JTPA steered less funding to community-based organizations and fewer services were being provided to out-of-school, Black, and Latino youth.
In the mid-1980’s, NYEC began launching local youth employment coalitions, with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. NYEC’s local coalition building efforts would continue for more than 10 years, with coalitions eventually established in New York, Boston, Utah, Phoenix, and San Francisco. The effort increased the number of NYEC members and linked youth programs all over the United States.


NYEC convened its first member retreat in Boston in 1993, in response to a loss of funding. Here the Executive Committee and membership set priorities and reestablished NYEC’s mission and purpose. Later in 1993, NYEC moved from New York to Washington, D.C.
In 1993, U.S. Department of Labor released the national evaluation of JTPA, which found that out-of-school males who participated in JTPA youth employment programs did not benefit significantly, as measured by employment rates and earnings. This study was used to justify a massive, 80 percent cut to the JTPA year-round youth employment program. In response, NYEC convened its members and called for the development of quality standards for the field and means to identify the highest-impact youth employment programs.
In 1995, NYEC launched the Promising and Effective Practices Network (PEPNet), to establish quality standards for the field and act on a priority established at the 1993 retreat. In 1998, NYEC launched the New Leaders Academy to identify and prepare the next generation of leaders of the field, another priority from the 1993 retreat.
NYEC’s work and impact continued expanding. NYEC developed a self-assessment tool for education programs and schools serving vulnerable youth; launched a project-based learning opportunity for young people focused on institutional racism; developed and tested a measurement instrument that reflects developmental enhancements that result from youth employment programs; strengthened the linkages between the workforce development and juvenile justice field; served as part of a national collaborative designed to equip state and local workforce development systems to better serve youth with disabilities; and provided capacity building opportunities for the leadership of local workforce investment boards.

NYEC Today and Tomorrow

In recent years NYEC was instrumental in the preservation and development of the youth provisions in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA), enacted on July 22, 2014. The youth formula within Title I, one of few federal funding streams that is dedicated to connecting disadvantaged youth with employment, remains intact due to extensive advocacy efforts by NYEC and its partners.
In fact, WIOA includes most of NYEC’s recommendations. Among the many improvements over the predecessor law, the Workforce Investment Act, these include:

  • Expanding the age range for Out-of-School Youth activities to 24
  • Including priority for Out-of-School Youth, with 75 percent of youth activities funds required to serve this population
  • Including more intentional linkages and alignment with secondary, post-secondary education and career pathways.

Since passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014, NYEC has served as a key source of information for the field on WIOA regulations, and for the Department of Labor on the progress of WIOA implementation. Through ongoing professional learning opportunities and partnerships such as the Campaign for Youth, NYEC continues to be a premier convener of conversations about serving youth and improving policies related to disadvantaged young people.