Small businesses commit to hiring young workers•
The commerce department’s report that the U.S. economy came to a screeching halt in the first quarter of 2015 is a stark reminder that while the Great Recession may have officially ended, there is much left to do to create jobs, economic security and opportunity for all Americans.
This is no easy feat, and certainly one that cannot be left solely to government, big businesses or university experts alone. Small businesses — our nation’s primary job creators — must be involved. Small business owners like myself are uniquely poised to develop on-the-ground solutions that will stimulate our economy now and over the long-term.
One way to bolster our economic prospects is to train, mentor and hire our community’s unemployed, or “opportunity” youth — young adults seeking steady work and career opportunities, but who lack the workforce experience or technical skills required to place them into steady employment.
More than five years have passed since the official end of the Great Recession, and yet 5.6 million young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are out of school, out of work and out of options. Today, youth unemployment is more than twice the national average — and here in Colorado, there are roughly 75,465 opportunity youth.
Small business owners and the communities in which we reside not only have the ability to change this, we have incentive.
Economists have estimated that our youth unemployment challenge could cost the U.S. roughly $20 billion in lost earnings alone over the next decade. And, according to Opportunity Nation, young adults who are not in school or working cost taxpayers $93 billion annually and $1.6 trillion over their lifetimes in lost revenues and increased social services.
The math simply doesn’t add up and it’s often Main Street who pays the biggest price.
Small business owners can engage our local opportunity youth and equip them with the skills, know-how and ability to reach their full potential. That’s why I recently signed Small Business Majority’s Commitment to Action pledge on this issue through Clinton Global Initiative America, which has recruited more than 200 small businesses and counting nationwide to take action to recruit, train, mentor and hire opportunity youth.
As part of the broader “Job One” program, small businesses like mine are coming together with companies like Salesforce, Gap, Marriott, AT&T and UBS to help solve one of our toughest economic challenges facing our nation today.
We know engaging opportunity youth works. Here in Pueblo, we’ve been busy hiring young people since we opened Hopscotch Bakery. All of my employees, except for two, are 26 or younger. It has been a highly rewarding experience seeing all of my young employees mature and develop the necessary retail and customer service skills they’ll need into the future. It has been a perfect stepping stone for so many of my employees.
I’m proud to be a part of an effort that will have ripple effects across Pueblo, Colorado and the nation. We all have a role to play in ensuring that every young American is given the opportunity they deserve to compete in the 21st century global economy and achieve the American dream.
Mary Oreskovich is owner of Hopscotch Bakery in Pueblo.