Despite ongoing economic recovery since the Great Recession, youth unemployment is a lingering reality for millions. Summer employment alone has plummeted since the late ’90s for teenagers, and initiatives in cities from San Jose, California, to Madison, Wisconsin, seek to combat the problem.
This week, a big boost arrived from the private sector. The new 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is a national coalition of U.S.-based companies committed to hiring at least 100,000 youths by 2018. Companies include CVS, FedEx, Starbucks, Microsoft and Sweetgreen. The goal’s breakdown: to place young Americans, ages 16 to 24, in apprenticeships, internships, training programs and both part-time and full-time jobs.
The program officially kicks off next week in Chicago at a job fair where participating companies — and an expected 2,000 youths — will mingle, with around 200 on-the-spot job offers on the table.
“Bringing this first hiring fair to Chicago will have an impact on both the businesses and the young people that they will hire for years to come, supporting growth in the city’s economy and creating more opportunities for our residents,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “Chicago will have the chance to showcase its talented workforce to the participating companies and further increase the potential of our residents to secure lasting employment.”
The initiative has received funding support from both the private and philanthropic spheres, including the Rockefeller Foundation (which also provides funding support to Next City) and the Schultz Family Foundation.
“We know that this is a complex issue and we need all of our collective horsepower to solve it,” said Sheri Schultz, of the Schultz Family Foundation. “For too long, it’s been the nonprofit and public sectors tackling this issue, without meaningful involvement from the private sector. Closing the opportunity divide requires bold leadership and innovation across all sectors.”
Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.