100,000 Opportunities: JFF Joins Employer-Led Efforts to Employ Opportunity Youth

Published aug. 05, 2015

While employment rates in the U.S. are improving, young people seeking to enter the workforce continue to be disproportionately unemployed. Jobs for the Future is honored to join forces with the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and a powerful coalition of leading companies to work toward expanding economic mobility for young adults in order to create better futures for them that will benefit us all.

Seventeen top U.S. employers—including CVS Health, JC Penney, JPMorgan Chase, Macy’s, Microsoft, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart—announced an initiative to create pathways to meaningful employment for young people in the U.S. who are currently disconnected from school and work, and now 29 employers are involved. The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative aims to be the nation’s largest employer-led coalition committed to engaging opportunity youth—Americans ages 16 to 24 who face systemic barriers to jobs and education—and plans to reconnect 100,000 people to apprenticeships, internships, training programs, and both part-time and full-time jobs by 2018.

As the core design and technical assistance partner to the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, Jobs for the Future will help manage and support “100,000 Opportunities Demonstration Cities.” This effort will make grants to several communities within the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund initiative, to enhance their work engaging employers and capitalize on their commitment to hire opportunity youth. This effort will also provide new resources through an innovation fund to a subset of communities that will build employer-led pathways and document innovative approaches to this work.

Led by Starbucks, which has pledged to hire 10,000 opportunity youth by 2018, and the Schultz Family Foundation, the initiative is one of the most ambitious private-sector movements to help the estimated 6.7 million opportunity youth in our country. Jobs that do not require a four-year degree—sometimes called middle-skill jobs—make up the largest part of the labor market in the United States. For employers looking to fill these jobs, young, motivated workers are a vital and untapped resource. However, young people face barriers to preparing for and accessing such jobs. At the same time, employers often do not have clear strategies to effectively recruit, train, and retain young workers.

In response, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is committing to create a vital step along the pathways young workers need to build skills, earn credentials, and secure a job. Companies engaged in the coalition will help to launch careers for young people who are just entering the workforce through internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training, as well as to develop the potential of youth who have some work experience, but are looking to gain new skills that will lead to a successful career. These companies are operating with the belief that with the right skills and training, opportunity youth represent an unrealized pipeline of talent that can help fuel our nation’s economy for years to come.

We appreciate that major U.S. employers are using their “bully pulpit” to call attention to the economic benefits of employing opportunity youth—for the young people themselves and for society as a whole. These include:

  • On average, the lifetime economic consequence of disconnected youth for taxpayers (e.g., lost tax payments, costs of law enforcement and other public resources) is estimated to be $235,680 for every 20-year-old who is not served. 
  • There are also broader social costs (e.g., lost earnings, health care costs, lost economic gains from a less-educated workforce). In total, one study found the immediate and lifetime social costs to be a staggering $704,020 for each disconnected youth.

JFF is excited to be part of this important work, which advances our mission to increase economic mobility for struggling populations. 

> Listen: 3:45min radio segment on the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative

Note: Calculations in 2011 dollars.
Sources: Belfield, Clive R. & Henry M. Levin. 2012. The Economics of Investing in Opportunity Youth. Washington, DC: Civic Enterprises; Belfield, Clive R., Henry M. Levin, & Rachel Rosen 2012. The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth. Washington, DC: Civic Enterprises.

  • Opening the Door: How Community Organizations Address the Youth Unemployment Crisis
  • Creating Pathways to Employment: The Role of Youth/Industry Partnerships in Preparing Low-Income Youth and Young Adults for Careers in High-Demand Industries