Media Highlights

Incredible momentum and progress on youth employment

by Russell Krumnow   •  

Today’s exciting announcement by more than a dozen of the country’s largest and most influential businesses to hire 100,000 young adults who have been shut out of the job market is not just bold and inspiring. The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative also makes sound business sense and will go a long way to increase economic mobility for this crucial but often-overlooked segment of our population.

Led by Starbucks, which has pledged to hire 10,000 “opportunity youth” by 2018, the initiative represents one of the most ambitious private-sector movements to engage and employ some of the estimated 5.6 million 16-to-24-year-olds who are neither in school nor working. These young people are often called “disconnected” or “opportunity” youth.

Other major employers include: Alaska Airlines, Cintas, CVS Health, Hilton Worldwide, HMSHost, JC Penny, JP Morgan Chase, Lyft, Macy’s, Microsoft,, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Taco Bell, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.

Opportunity Nation is thrilled to see so many of our country’s leading employers commit to hiring teens and young adults for apprenticeships, internships and part- and full-time jobs, particularly both Starbucks and Walmart, whose leaders participated in the National Opportunity Summit in February 2015.

We are proud that so many of our philanthropic and thought partners are also involved, including the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, the Joyce Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, among others.

It was also great to see our diverse “massive coalition” referenced in a Washington Post story about the new initiative and the critical issue of disconnected youth in the United States.

The unprecedented pledge to hire and train young adults recognizes just how severe America’s youth disconnection crisis is – and how employers can take a pivotal role in addressing the problem. This cross-sector approach was the guiding theme of our coalition’s call to action to tackle youth unemployment: We Got This. Today’s announcement will help to achieve many of its goals to Hire, Train and Mentor young Americans.

Though the nation is recovering from the Great Recession, youth unemployment remains stuck in the double digits. This lack of opportunity severely hampers not just the future of young adults but also the prosperity of our broader community.  We know from the Opportunity Index that places with lower levels of youth disconnection offer greater opportunity and economic mobility to their residents.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, who delivered one of the most rousing speeches at the National Opportunity Summit, also offered his support for the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative.

“In America, your zip code should never determine your destiny,” Secretary Perez said. “Breaking down barriers to employment for young people doesn’t just help the individual workers – it benefits entire communities and the economy at large.”

Opportunity Nation lauds this diverse collection of partners for embracing a collaborative approach to tackle unacceptably high levels of youth unemployment. We are excited to see the models that emerge that can point the way for other sectors and organizations that are looking to build meaningful employment pathways for young adults. The Grads of Life platform offers helpful resources for companies that are thinking about offering internships and apprenticeships and hiring more youth.

“You really have to build a coalition of like-minded organizations and people who have the kind of experiences and skill base and local knowledge to tackle a problem as complex as this,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told USA Today.

We all have a vested interest in helping more teens and young adults embark on meaningful education and career pathways. The leadership and commitment demonstrated by more than a dozen major employers represent a huge step forward in promoting the message that teens and young adults are assets for businesses and that nurturing a talent pipeline is simply good business.

“I believe in the talent that lies within our young people,” said the rap artist Common, who is working with Schultz on the initiative. “And I know that when we give them a real chance, they will achieve and soar.”

We couldn’t agree more. Opportunity Nation looks forward to even more U.S. employers joining this inspiring effort as we work together to reduce youth disconnection and expand opportunity to more young Americans.

Russell Krumnow Russell Krumnow is the Managing Director of Opportunity Nation and works with more than 350 partner organizations to advance policy change and community actions that expand economic opportunity across the country. Read Russell's bio.

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