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First Jobs from the First Family: President Obama Proposes a New Plan to Employ American Youth

Laura Roberts - Former Program Associate


Last week, the White House launched an ambitious effort to give one million young people a real chance at finding a lifelong career. As the job market continues to rebound from the Great Recession, with the United States experiencing the longest streak of private-sector job growth in recent history, young people—particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds—are at risk of being left out. This new effort from the White House recognizes that young people face a unique set of challenges when it comes to landing that first crucial job, and that now is an important time for both companies and communities to step up efforts to get young people into career-starting jobs, thereby securing the next generation of the American workforce.

Under President Obama’s ‘First Job’ plan, $6 billion has been budgeted for use by organizations working to help young people gain the skills, work experience, and networks they need to help them enter the job market. Subject to Congressional approval, this new funding plan doubles last year’s budget request for helping disadvantaged youth and was developed out of the realization that one of the main criteria for employment is prior experience—opportunities that many low-income young people cannot access.

“How can we rethink traditional job requirements and recruitment practices in a way that connects America’s young people to meaningful employment opportunities?”

This realization points to an important question: How can we rethink traditional job requirements and recruitment practices in a way that connects America’s young people to meaningful employment opportunities?

For the President, one answer is appealing to businesses to think about new ways of hiring young workers with “limited resumes.” The budget request includes a plan to help subsidize the cost for businesses to hire those youth with less traditional experience as summer and year-round workers, interns, and apprentices, and to develop a new data collection system that accurately assesses the types of skill-sets companies are looking for, in order to better connect and develop the youth talent pool that serves those needs.

Recognizing the importance of direct employer engagement in efforts to solve the youth employment issue is something The Rockefeller Foundation has been pioneering through our work to advance the concept of ‘impact hiring’—an innovative approach to hiring that enables employers to find better, more successful matches for entry-level positions by drawing on the youth talent pool.

The three elements of impact hiring—recruitment, assessment, and support—sit at the core of almost every HR department, but we believe they’re more effective when they’re designed to be flexible enough to work in real-world hiring situations across a variety of sectors and companies.

Private sector leadership and thinking are necessary to solve the youth employment crisis at scale in the United States—but it will also require the kind of cross-sector collaboration that the President has proposed. With a record of more than five million vacant positions in the U.S. job market today, encouraging businesses to work collaboratively to find new ways to source and develop the workforce of the future is crucial to moving our economy, and country, forward.

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