U.S. Youth Employment Initiative—Launched in 2014
Why This Initiative
As America continues to emerge from the Great Recession of 2007-2008, it has become clear that the high level of youth unemployment in the U.S. remains a major obstacle to a more inclusive national economy. Roughly 14 million young people face employment challenges, including six million who are currently neither working nor in school. At the same time, there are 3.5 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. that do not require a four-year degree. These young people are often unaware of existing employment opportunities and do not know the steps needed to get these jobs, while many employers do not have clear strategies to effectively recruit, train and retain young workers.
As the dimensions of this emerging problem became apparent, The Rockefeller Foundation moved quickly to define the crisis and explore possible solutions. This included funding a 2014 workshop by the Institute for the Future that brought together professionals in hiring services, city government, education, corporate HR, and labor market research to map out a vision of a successful working future for the nation’s vulnerable youth. The workshop’s results were presented in a Foundation-sponsored report, The Future of Youth Employment. Since then, building on these findings, the Foundation has supported a number of innovative, catalytic interventions designed to create new employment opportunities for American youth, and to help employers find successful matches from the nation’s youth talent pool for entry-level, career-building positions.
Adapting for Increased Effectiveness
In 2014, The Rockefeller Foundation formally launched our U.S. Youth Employment initiative, aimed at identifying and implementing effective, innovative approaches to securing career-building jobs in U.S. companies for underemployed American youth. From the start, the initiative has been marked by a readiness to seize new opportunities as they arise. In 2015, the Foundation responded to an emerging youth-employment effort among major U.S. companies and helped spark a new effort called the 100,000 (or 100K) Opportunities Coalition. This employer-led coalition of nearly 40 leading corporate employers including Starbucks, Hyatt, FedEx and others, is committed to providing jobs, internships, apprenticeships and training programs to 100,000 “opportunity youth” between the ages of 16 and 24 who are currently out of work and out of school.
Recognizing that this program dovetailed with our own efforts to implement new and complementary strategies for unlocking demand for young workers, The Rockefeller Foundation moved quickly to support and guide 100K Opportunities as one of the earliest members of the coalition’s governing committee. The specific jobs target embedded in the initiative was particularly important, since the Foundation’s experience has shown that specific goals play an essential role in driving philanthropic organizations and their business partners to adapt and coordinate their own activities in a nimble fashion.
The Foundation is also providing grant support to the two organizations that serve as anchor intermediaries for this effort. In the fall of 2015, we awarded $400,000 to the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions to provide on-the-ground leadership, technical assistance, and programmatic support in core 100K focus cities. This involvement builds upon the work of Aspen’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund (OYIF)—a national program established by recommendation of the White House Council for Community Solutions, of which Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin was a member. Also in the fall of 2015, the Foundation awarded a $600,000 grant to the social impact consulting firm FSG for its work as the convener of the 100K employer community of practice.
Since the launch of the 100K Opportunities Initiative in July 2015, the program has hosted large-scale job fairs (“Opportunity Fairs”) and convened key company leaders in a community of practice in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Seattle. These events drew thousands of participants, who had the opportunity to meet with corporate representatives and polish their job-seeking skills and portfolios. The fairs also resulted in over 3,000 on-the-spot job offers.
In addition, the Foundation has adapted some of our own approaches to the 100K Opportunities endeavor. For example, we’re working with coalition members to share and disseminate best practices around the novel concept of “impact hiring“—an approach that enables employers to find better, more successful matches for entry-level positions from the youth talent pool by promoting recruitment, candidate assessment, and retention strategies that unlock additional business value while expanding employment opportunities for disadvantaged young workers. Impact hiring draws on tools such as predictive talent analytics, which help employers identify promising talent from a larger pool than they might traditionally consider, and to make hiring decisions based on data rather than intuition. In particular, the Foundation is working closely with a select cohort of 100K Coalition employers and our grantee Incandescent, a boutique strategy and human capital consultancy, to develop company-specific impact hiring strategies that meet their entry-level hiring needs and expand opportunities for youth.
In addition to these 100K efforts, The Rockefeller Foundation’s U.S. Youth Employment initiative has also moved nimbly to collaborate with businesses on other novel job-promoting activities. The Foundation funded Incandescent and Knack—a startup that has developed mobile video game technology to measure talent markers and predict job performance potential—to conduct a pilot study testing the use of game-based talent analytics with 600 opportunity youth. The study’s results, published in 2015 in the report Impact Hiring: How Data Will Transform Youth Employment, validated the potential of video games to identify potential top performers from the opportunity youth talent pool who likely would have been overlooked using only traditional résumé-based hiring practices.
Since the initiative’s launch, The Rockefeller Foundation has also responded swiftly to opportunities for partnering with other regional actors around youth employment. For example, the Foundation is supporting strategic planning work by FSG to scale the employee retention efforts of the Consortium for Sustainable Workforce Practices. In addition, we are providing funding to the New Mexico-based company Innovate-Educate, whose 2015 Close It Summit and #YouthHire initiative are linking disadvantaged youth in Albuquerque, New Mexico to jobs based on competencies rather than credentials, and to the Portland Business Alliance, which is helping the small business community implement innovative programs for hiring and training poor and vulnerable youth in the northwestern U.S.