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A New Program Helps Businesses Engage the Next Generation of Talent

Last week, The Rockefeller Foundation was pleased to co-host an event with the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to announce the 2015 Business Ambassadors for The Next Generation of Talent. The Foundation and SBS, in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit, brought together leaders from a group of eight small businesses that will spend the next year working to educate their peers—in New York City and around the country—about the value they have seen from hiring young workers.

We were honored to be joined at the event by SBS Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer, who spoke to the substantive value that these small businesses and others like them add to the fabric of New York City’s economy. We also heard from businesses—like Sharp Decisions, a New York-based IT consultancy that is investing in returning veterans, many of whom are entering the civilian labor market for the first time—and from young workers themselves. Josiah Morales, a web developer at Blankslate, spoke about his experience landing a good job with the company, while his boss Ning Zhou, a co-founder of Blankslate talked about the energy, enthusiasm, and overall value that Josiah brings to the firm.

We believe that harnessing the energy, creativity, and potential of young people is critical to creating more inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity. Youth unemployment has been a persistent and growing problem both in the U.S. and around the world for decades—New York City is certainly no exception. Approximately 172,000 young New Yorkers are neither working nor enrolled in school.

Philanthropy can play a unique role in supporting young workers, and in shaping economic outcomes that lead to more jobs and work opportunities. Through partnerships with employers, institutions, and local government, philanthropy can seed innovation and support change that other actors deem too risky. And we believe that in order for businesses to realize their full potential, they must integrate and leverage the talent of younger workers.

The Rockefeller Foundation is committed to supporting employer-focused interventions that expand and identify employment opportunities for young people in ways that recognize how they can contribute to a business’ success. The gathering in New York City last week is just one of the ways that we are working with employers to identify business practices that benefit younger workers, as well as the company’s bottom line.

We need to engage the next generation of talent and connect them to meaningful jobs with real career pathways. At the same time, we also want to see business growth across sectors. Together, our job is to ensure these two things happen in tandem—if not, we lose a chance to harness the power of economic development to help ensure the economic future of today’s youth.

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