Recap: A Unique Bipartisan Panel Discussion Hosted by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

by Opportunity Nation   •  

“We need to hear from young people to understand the workforce of the future.” – House Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05)

The Opportunity Index tells us that nearly five million young people ages 16 to 24 are out of school and work. Many of these young people – whether they have personal barriers, such as homelessness, involvement in the juvenile or criminal justice system, or come from low-opportunity communities, face substantial barriers to employment. Despite these barriers, these Opportunity Youth can add great social and economic value to our communities and the economy.

Earlier this week, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hosted a unique bipartisan panel discussion, “Investing in our Next Workforce: The Business Cases for Hiring Opportunity Youth,” focused on these important issues that impact our youth and our communities. Twelve members of the Education and the Workforce Committee participated in the discussion.

Moderated by Opportunity Nation’s Monique Rizer, the event began with framing remarks from Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA-03) and Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05). The panel discussion focused on business leaders and advocates discussing barriers to hiring youth, the return on investing in Opportunity Youth and employer-led solutions to youth unemployment. We were especially happy to have Starbucks, Coalition member Year Up and close partner Gap Inc. as part of the panel.

Panelists included: Gail Gershon, Executive Director, Community Leadership, Gap Inc., a close partner of Opportunity Nation; Taj Jackson, former Opportunity Youth and an alumnus of Opportunity Nation Coalition member Year Up; Lieutenant Colonel (R) David I. Oclander, Director, Opportunity Youth, Global Social Impact, Starbucks Coffee Company; and Nicole Trimble, Executive Director of the Impact Hiring Initiative, FSG.

The discussion highlighted how businesses play a crucial role in providing youth with the employment opportunities that can set them on a path towards career success and how business can benefit from this untapped talent pool.

According to Nicole Trimble, in 2016, the cost of turnover in retail was $9B. “We need to retain and advance staff. There is value in hiring Opportunity Youth.”

For businesses, investing in Opportunity Youth is about more than just social responsibility – it’s an investment their next workforce as the diversity, creativity and energy they bring are a high-value asset for employers that wish to improve retention, spur innovation and meet labor shortages.

When asked by Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA-05) what Year Up taught him to help secure his employment, alumnus Taj Jackson touted the teaching of soft skills such as resume writing and interview etiquette in his preparation. And Starbucks’ commitment to hiring youth doesn’t end with a job offer. They offer training and no strings attached college tuition as well as other benefits that they know help their bottom line and employee retention.

“Having a job coach… can make or break a young person’s ability to keep working” according to Gail Gershon, GAP Inc. Having a “big sib” or buddy at work helps foster trust and goodwill amongst their This Way Ahead program participants. Also, Gap “hires for potential,” focusing on work ethic and openness to feedback.

We want to thank all the Members of the Committee who attended the discussion: Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-05), Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53), Rep Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Rep. Glenn Thompson (PA-05), Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Rep. Jason Lewis (MN-02), Rep. Lloyd Smucker (PA-16) and Rep. Drew Ferguson (GA-03).

The strong bipartisan attendance demonstrated that there are areas of common agreement where we can work together to secure a better future for the next generation.

This Congressional panel is a great lead-in to the fifth event in our “Restoring the American Dream” series, which will focus on youth employment and the power of a first job, taking place on October 25th at the AT&T Forum for Technology, Entertainment & Policy in Washington, DC.

Opportunity Nation Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national campaign comprised of more than 350 cross-sector organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap in America. Opportunity Nation envisions the United States as a nation where everyone – regardless of where they were born – has equal access to opportunity, economic mobility, and success at all stages of life.

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