When I look back on my childhood, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I had a built-in support network that allowed me to make mistakes and learn, and a strong community of family, teachers and mentors that supported me along the way. For the 4.5 million young people between the ages of 16 to 24 who are not in school or working—often referred to as Opportunity Youth—the path forward is a little less certain.
At the Schultz Family Foundation, we see the incredible potential of young people for our communities and economy. Often, they need skills, supports and a clear pathway to a job. At the same time, employers need a pipeline of young talent. But the data show a disconnect: while employers struggle to fill millions of open positions, the youth unemployment rate is nearly triple the national average. So how do we connect youth with employers at scale in a meaningful way?
Our approach leverages three critical strategies.
- Forge innovative partnerships with employers. In 2015, we launched the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, the largest corporate coalition committed to train, hire and retain young people. Employers like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Five Guys, Hyatt, Nordstrom and T-Mobile recognize the value Opportunity Youth bring to their business. Through this initiative, employers receive resources from community organizations and best practices in hiring and supporting young people from our network of partners.
- Remove barriers for opportunity youth. Employer recruitment and outreach efforts can fall flat if they don’t connect with young people where they are: online. That’s why we invested in JobLaunch.org, a free digital platform designed to provide young people with employment opportunities and resources. Through JobLaunch.org, youth can receive support throughout the application and interview process, including 1:1 coaching through a dedicated textline, access to simplified, easy-to-read job descriptions, and jobs curated specifically for youth through a job feed powered by Indeed. In addition to online resources, our partners are bringing the recruitment process online so that young adults can connect with employers no matter where they live. Last fall, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative and JobLaunch introduced the first-ever National Youth Hiring Day, a virtual job fair aimed to bridge the employment gap by connecting the business needs of companies with the career needs of young job-seekers. We hosted another National Youth Hiring Day earlier this spring that combined a simple, online application with place-based job fairs in cities like Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
- Innovate and iterate. We continue to develop new approaches to engage youth. Last week, we’ve built on the success of past events with Miami Youth Hiring Days. This effort included a new, online job fair where youth logged in and connected 1:1 with recruiters from major national companies. The virtual fair was followed by a hiring “pop-up” event featuring food, music, arts and on-site career search support. And to help remove barriers that could prevent young people from participating, Miami-Dade County ran hourly shuttle buses to the event from four different regions and six locations across the county. It didn’t look like a typical job fair—and that was the point. By creating a fun, casual atmosphere—and providing free transportation from around the city to the event—our partners made sure youth were welcomed, not intimidated. With support from dozens of community-based organizations, Miami Youth Hiring Days connected with nearly 2,000 youth in the Miami area.
At the Schultz Family Foundation, we believe in the power of a job—a good job—to change a life. Miami Youth Hiring Days was designed to help empower more young people unlock their potential to a brighter future. We believe it can serve as a model for others seeking to connect youth with employers in an engaging, innovative way.