Workforce Development

Wake County is rich with employment opportunities for those interested in technology, science, and product research and development, and is a fast-growing job market in many of these areas. Most teens, even those committed to school, report an interest in or need for working part-time and during the summer. Race and gender teen employment patterns are complex. Employment rates reflect two factors – job search and employment success. Job seeking can vary significantly across student populations, depending on their need or desire to work. That said, African-Americans ages 16-19 are employed at a slightly greater percentage than White and Hispanic teens, and Asian youth are far less likely to be employed.

Communities have to ask the big question of whether or not they are creating local conditions to teach and train youth for the community jobs that will be available to them in adulthood.


Wake County Planning Blueprint Outcomes:

Number of students who have previously dropped out but who re-enroll and graduate

Percent of "idle" youth

Number of unduplicated youth receiving juvenile justice complaints

Juvenile Justice

Youth, their families, and society suffer multiple consequences from juvenile crime and related problems. Crimes committed by juveniles carry economic, social, and psychological burdens, many of which can be long-term. Expenses related to medical treatment, productivity loss, and other consequences of juvenile crime are felt throughout layers of the community.

The total number of Wake County juvenile complaints to law enforcement for fiscal 2014 was 1,795. Of these complaints, 1,138 were minor charges, 618 were serious offenses and 40 were violent offenses. The total number of unduplicated youth involved in these complaints was 792. This small number means that the community can easily identify these young people and develop strategies and pathways to improve their chances of halting delinquent behavior.

There are two types of secure commitment centers for youth in North Carolina: juvenile detention centers and youth development centers.

  • Juvenile detention centers temporarily house youth alleged to have committed a delinquent act or considered a runaway. Youth are generally placed in a juvenile detention center while awaiting a court hearing, or until another placement can be found. Juveniles transferred to Superior Court for trial as adults are housed in juvenile detention pending trial if they are not released on bond.
  • Youth development centers are secure facilities that provide education and treatment services to prepare committed youth to successfully transition to a community setting. These facilities, which are more restrictive than detention centers, house juveniles who have been adjudicated for violent or serious offenses or those with a lengthy delinquency history.

Raise the Age: On December 1, 2019, North Carolina joined the rest of the country in its treatment of youthful offenders ages sixteen and seventeen. With Raise the Age, sixteen and seventeen-year-olds who are charged with crimes in North Carolina will no longer automatically be adjudicated in adult court regardless of the type of crime. Originally passed in 2017, the new law, known as the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (“JJRA”), is a victory for criminal justice reform advocates and was celebrated across the state.

Learn more about juvenile justice here.

Opportunity Youth

Nationally, there are 6.7 million opportunity youth, defined as youth between the ages of 16 to 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market. While the identifiable number of “idle or opportunity youth” is low in Wake County, the burden for each one is high. Being able to find a job is a significant indicator of overall life success. Additionally, idle youth place economic burdens on the community now and in the future.

In Wake County, 2.7 percent rate of 16-to-19-year-olds are considered “idle youth.” While that might seem very low, that totals approximately 1,411 youth who are idle – putting a $72.4 million tax and social burden on Wake County each year. Furthermore, when ages 16-24 are considered together, 8.4 percent of young people are idle, meaning that idleness continues to be a problem into early adulthood. These youth are also more likely to have poor health and engage in criminal behavior. Additionally, it is important for youth to begin to enter the labor force so they can develop soft skills and gain the work experience they need to be productive adults. A disproportionate number of Black/African-American youth are considered idle – four percent of the population of Black or African American youth ages 16 19. Furthermore, this population is over-represented in both school suspensions (WCPSS) and Juvenile Justice Involvement (NCDPS). Efforts to address these challenges must include efforts to increase equitable treatment of all youth.