Sheri Schultz with a YouthBuild DREAMS student in Brooklyn, New York.
On Friday, we learned that the national unemployment rate remains at a 50-year low. This is good news for our economy, however for youth between the ages of 16 to 24, the unemployment rate remains startlingly high—sitting around 8.3 percent. Helping these young people find new opportunities was the goal of National Youth Hiring Day last month. This first-ever national online job fair—created by the JobLaunch.org, Get Schooled, 100,000 Opportunities Initiative and the Schultz Family Foundation—gave all young people, regardless of their background, the chance to connect with an employer through JobLaunch.org. This free digital platform provides Opportunity Youth—the 4.6 million young people ages 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor working—with ongoing access to tools and virtual support to help them figure out the basics of landing and succeeding at a first job or their next opportunity.
Ten of our nation’s biggest businesses came together as part of this effort, united by their appreciation for the vast potential of Opportunity Youth. In the lead-up to National Youth Hiring Day and on the day itself, young people from 35 states visited the website to help fill as many as 50,000 open positions with companies such as Enterprise Rent a Car, Five Guys, Hyatt, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Sixt Rent a Car, Starbucks, T-Mobile and Ulta Beauty.
Initially, this may seem like an easy fix: employers have jobs that need filling and young people are without jobs. So why are so many young people sitting on the sidelines? Solving that problem has been Howard’s and my passion for the last three years. And we have learned that it’s about hope, providing the right level of support and changing the hearts and minds of companies looking for young talent.
The Schultz Family Foundation helped to launch the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative in 2015 to help connect young people to meaningful work. Since inception, seven cities around the U.S. have held all-day Opportunity Fairs specifically tailored to the needs of youth. I attended each one of them and have seen as many as 5,000 young job seekers show up in one day. I have worked with and encouraged participants as they practiced their interviewing skills, connected with a mentor and went for it. And there is nothing like the look on someone’s face when they learn that they have landed that first job! JobLaunch.org and National Youth Hiring Day take it to the next level and ensure that all young people—whether we hold an Opportunity Fair in their community or not—have that same feeling of success and pride. The site even allows them to upload vesumes—video resumes—so they can virtually meet prospective employers.
The results so far show these innovations are working—and we’re excited to see the numbers grow as we continue to scale. On National Youth Hiring Day, more than 2,000 connections were made between young job seekers and employers looking to hire motivated youth.
Simply put, National Youth Hiring Day is a day of possibility—where philanthropy, nonprofits and businesses come together, with each doing what they do best for the benefit of young people, our economy and our country.