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Four Takeaways from the White House First Job Convening

Abigail Carlton — Former Managing Director
Haley Hoffman — Principal, Incandescent

College of DuPage hosted its second annual Career Fair, sponsored by the Chicago Tribune Feb. 8, on the College's main campus in Glen Ellyn.

On Tuesday, we joined some of the nation’s largest and most innovative employers to discuss one of the biggest issues facing our nation: youth unemployment.

The Rockefeller Foundation and Incandescent worked side by side with the White House to convene major corporate employers who have signed on to President Obama’s First Job Compact. At the day-long implementation convening opened by Secretary of Education John King Jr., 20 of the more than 40 companies that signed the compact gathered to evaluate how their hiring practices can advance their business goals and accelerate their positive impact on opportunity youth—young people ages 16-24 who are neither working nor in school.

Through internal and external research, we found that youth unemployment matters to a lot of employers. But it’s not just about social impact, it’s also about business impact.

It was a powerful, productive discussion, giving the Foundation the opportunity to listen, learn and drive conversations about how these companies—and others—can practice impact hiring: strategies, tools, and practices that address employers’ entry-level talent needs and lead to better outcomes for younger workers.

Employers reflected on the intersection of their business objectives and impact hiring, exploring how they might weave innovations around youth recruitment, assessment, and support into talent approaches to more effectively tap into this pool of opportunity youth. They also shared data and examples about what’s working and what’s not, and what they need to ensure they can meet their business imperatives and impact hiring goals.

Here are four key takeaways from the convening:

  1. Hiring opportunity youth benefits companies’ bottom lines: For many of the companies represented, opportunity youth makes up 40-50% of their workforce, and therefore, they simply “cannot afford not to” invest in this talent pool. For others, impact hiring presents a compelling avenue to tap into a talent pool they care about.
  2. Front-line managers are integral to the success of youth employment initiatives: HR professionals illustrated that entry level employees want to be heard and seek inter-personal relationships with their managers. Manager buy-in is a key element and therefore, companies are actively including managers in the hiring process and are working with them to identify the characteristics required for and the managing principles conducive to success in entry-level roles.
  3. Partnering with community-based organizations provides an opportunity youth pipeline for employers: There were many examples of successful employer and community-based organization partnerships, not only in sourcing candidates but in providing continuing support after they are hired. However, classic challenges for employers include the often local scale of community-based organizations, and bridging across respective objectives and constraints for mutual results. Companies brainstormed ways to establish more effective partnerships more quickly and shared ideas for new resources that could provide support as employers tap increasingly into this talent pool
  4. Impact hiring data is important for scale programming: Few companies track opportunity youth hiring and employers struggle to link retention data to hiring decisions. Attendees highlighted that in order to scale impact hiring practices beyond pilots, data demonstrating the business value of opportunity youth to HR leaders across the organization will be critical. Companies shared notes on wraparound supports and internal support innovations (from manager best practices to benefits offerings) that they consider part of an impact hiring approach.

Just five years ago, this type of side-by-side problem-solving between major national employers and youth-serving organizations would have been unlikely.

Historically, efforts to improve youth employment in the U.S. have predominantly focused on education and training to better prepare young people for jobs. While these programs play a critical role, they alone cannot address this problem at scale.

The overall unemployment rate in the U.S. has decreased significantly in recent years, yet the unemployment rate for younger workers, at 11 percent, remains more than double the national average. What’s worse, there are more than 5.5 million opportunity youth—disconnected from work and school—in this country. For these young people, failure to gain an early foothold in the labor market can translate to permanently lower earnings, family and community instability, and a host of other challenges.

So, to really enact change, we must break barriers within companies that limit employment opportunities for youth.

That’s why the Foundation’s work has focused on employers as change agents—because we know that to truly tackle youth unemployment, we must identify solutions that help employers address some of their core business needs.

Over the course of the last year, we have been working closely with employers to help them build, refine or tweak the business case for impact hiring—and to understand the opportunities and challenges of executing on an impact hiring strategy.

Through internal and external research, we found that youth unemployment matters to a lot of employers. But it’s not just about social impact, it’s also about business impact.

The truth is that employers are concerned about finding and keeping the right entry-level talent to meet their business needs. And impact hiring solutions offer ways to recruit, assess and support this talent.

As we think about the stories and solutions shared Tuesday, we are inspired by the dedication from our nation’s largest and most powerful employers – a dedication to re-imagine their hiring practices. The Foundation’s hope is that this momentum encourages other employers to innovate within their own entry-level talent practices in ways that are more inclusive of opportunity youth.

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