Youth Employment Efforts in Atlanta
By Che Watkins, Center for Working Families
Atlanta has an estimated 78,000 youth ages 16 – 24 that are not in school or employed for a variety of reasons. Research has continued to show the importance of engaging these young adults sooner rather than later to show them the various options available to them. Most are looking for opportunities for recreation, employment and other positive activities and are simply seeking guidance on how to tap into those resources. In addition to the lack of knowledge, we all know that systemic inequities in the workforce, criminal justice, transportation and education systems have left low-income individuals in many communities disconnected from quality employment opportunities.
The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative™, launched with the goal of helping 100,000 youth be employed, is headed to Atlanta on May 3, bringing encouragement to our city’s youth through potential jobs and free resources that will help them take the next important step to becoming self-sufficient. Much more than a job fair, the event provides help with resumes, interview tips and training, legal services, immigration services, and even lining these youth up with mentors. (Atlanta’s is the first event in which LinkedIn will facilitate on-the-spot mentor match ups.) More than 30 companies including Nordstrom, Hyatt, Five Guys, FedEx, and Yum! Brands will be on hand to hire.
The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is rapidly becoming one of the largest employer-led youth-focused movements in the U.S. In 2015, the new and then-small coalition of a few companies expected 5 to 10 employers to participate, but more than 50 national employers have since joined. With this unprecedented response, the coalition hired 100,000 youth within its first year, so it is now committed itself to connecting 1 million youth to jobs in the next 5 years, with a strong focus on skill development and job retention.
Coalition members hope Atlanta will become a pilot city to capture stories of some of the participants and follow them on their journeys after the fair over the next several months in order to measure the initiative’s impact. This is a priority for the Schultz Family Foundation, one of the founding organizations and sustaining funders of the initiative.
How will Atlanta stack up? We have the resources, services and employers. We have the jobs. Now let’s get as many youth there as possible to take advantage of this amazing opportunity and get them connected and supported to hurdle over the barriers that they may encounter. In fact, here is a link – http://bit.ly/100kATLfairTCWFI. What will be most important is what we do AFTER the fair. Let’s use this as a chance to reengage these youth, listen to them and let them point us in the direction of how to serve them best. We may be surprised at what we hear.