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How are we preparing today’s young adults for tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges?

by Opportunity Nation   •  

Today youth disconnection is down to pre-recession levels — below five million — but even though the numbers have shown vast improvement, young adults are still disproportionately impacted by economic shifts. In 2011, when recovery from the recession officially began, youth unemployment was at 18 percent, and today it’s still at 11.5 percent.

With this in mind, we chose to focus our last convening in our Restoring the American Dream series on dissecting this very issue. With generous support from AT&T, the Citi Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, we convened over 60 cross-sector leaders at the AT&T Forum for Entertainment, Technology, and Policy in Washington, DC on Wednesday, October 25.

Changes in technology, automation and globalization are just a few of the trends that will make it harder for young people, specially Opportunity Youth, to find jobs in the future. So, how are we preparing today’s young adults for tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges? It starts with early working experience that puts them on a career path for life and brings the valuable skills.

Nicole Anderson, AVP of Social Innovation and President of the AT&T Foundation, shared some of AT&T’s commitments to recruit talent early and invest in that talent. With programs like AT&T ASPIRE and AT&Teen University, they are ensuring their young recruits can develop the skills they need to achieve career success while receiving a personalized learning experience.

First jobs are important and partnerships can make that experience even more remarkable and intentionally skills-building. Nonprofits and businesses are now teaming up to recruit, train and hire young workers for both summer jobs and year-round employment.

Cross-sector leaders shared their experiences with these types of partnerships and how they can strengthen the future workforce in a conversation moderated by Elizabeth Santiago, Chief Program Officer of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. Panelists included Abigail Hollingsworth, Senior Vice President, Program Manager, Bank of America Charitable Foundation; David Howard, Chief Business Development Officer, Home Builders Institute; and Beth Swanson, Vice President of Strategy and Programs, Joyce Foundation.

Young people, especially Opportunity Youth, face barriers to successful participation in some of these programs. Employers acknowledge they often want to help address these barriers that range from supportive services to transportation and childcare but don’t have the internal systems to do so.

Our second panel, “Recruitment to Retention: How a First Job Leads to a Career” included employers and young adults discussing hiring processes with the goal of retention and long term career pathways. The conversation was led by Kate Newlin, Contributor, The Robin Report. Panelists included: Ellen Davis, Executive Director, National Retail Federation; Yscaira Jimenez, CEO, LaborX; Barbara Marder, Global Innovation Leader, Senior Partner, Mercer; and Dominik Vaughan, Youth Radio.

The convening culminated in an interactive innovation lab moderated by Nicole Trimble, Executive Director, FSG Impact Hiring Initiative and Justin Bakule, Executive Director, Shared Value Initiative. Our goal was to identify the practices employers have in place to reduce barriers and provide opportunities for Opportunity Youth to be successful in their current position and beyond. Five young people — three in internship programs, one in her first job and one in high school exploring internships and summer programs — joined us in this exercise and shared their views on first job experiences.

Opportunity Nation Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national campaign comprised of more than 350 businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits and civic organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap in America.

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