News Release

UnidosUS Forum Highlights Urgency of Engaging Young People in Workforce

Industry, nonprofit and government leaders shared best practices and model programs for connecting disengaged youth with innovative learning and work opportunities

September 15, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC—The UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) 2017 Workforce Development Forum, held September 13–15 in Las Vegas, focused on engaging the more than five million opportunity youth in the United States—young adults between ages 16 and 24 who are neither in the workforce nor the education system. More than 300 leaders from the business, nonprofit and government sectors gathered to share best practices, strategies, lessons learned and success stories at more than 20 workshops, networking, fundraising and professional development sessions. Congressman Rubén J. Kihuen served as the keynote speaker.

“It is critical that we improve the career prospects of all young people and prepare them to fill the high-skilled jobs that drive economic growth,” said Peggy McLeod, EdD, UnidosUS Deputy Vice President, Education and Workforce Development. “At the UnidosUS Workforce Development Forum, we explored innovative ways to reach young people who have dropped out of both school and the workforce, and help them gain the skills and confidence for success. Our nation cannot afford to leave them behind.”

“I am honored to attend this year’s UnidosUS 2017 Workforce Development Forum and discuss the importance of investing in our future generations,” said Congressman Kihuen. “As the proud son of a housekeeper and a farmworker who came to this country in pursuit of the American Dream, I know that when we invest in education and training for our young people, not only is it good for our economy, it is also good for our country.”

Forum panelists and attendees discussed strategies for helping youth who may face multiple serious barriers to employment, such as experiencing homelessness, aging out of foster care, living in extreme poverty or involvement with the justice system. These young people need specialized employment services to find and keep work, and develop further skills in areas such as English proficiency, communications, leadership and technology.

Some model programs featured at the UnidosUS Las Vegas event include:

“It is rewarding to help young people obtain the right combination of learning and work opportunities they need to get a good job and build a more secure future,” said Ana Aguirre, Director, YouthSource & Education Department of the Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles. “Our organization has seen many disengaged youth transform into self-sufficient and hard-working members of society and take great pride in contributing to their employers and communities.”

The full agenda of speakers and scheduled events from the UnidosUS 2017 Workforce Development Forum—co-title sponsored by McDonald’s and Wells Fargo—can be found here. For more information on how UnidosUS strengthens our nation’s workforce, please visit

UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), is the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Through its unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico, UnidosUS simultaneously challenges the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos at the national and local levels. For almost 50 years, UnidosUS has united communities and different groups seeking common ground through collaboration, and that share a desire to make our country stronger. For more information on UnidosUS, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.