Bringing Together Employers and Talented Opportunity Youth

Employers recognize the competitive advantage of a reliable pipeline of entry-level employees with skills that match their needs. Employment pathways create these pipelines, helping businesses build a better workforce from a historically overlooked talent pool of motivated and loyal young adults known as opportunity youth.

The Grads of Life campaign seeks to change perceptions employers have of young people with atypical resumes. The website offers the tools to connect leading employers to employment pathways, including mentoring, school-to-work, internships, and hiring.

The Employment Pathways Project is catalyzing a national effort to increase employer demand for opportunity youth. The project works to harness the power of the private sector to create an employer-led movement in developing new sources of skilled talent. The Employment Pathways Project created, a website dedicated to providing employers with the information and tools they need to get involved. The Employment Pathways Project is housed at the Communications Consortium Media Center.

Year Up is a lead partner in the Employment Pathways Project’s efforts to galvanize business interest in generating strategic and innovative employment opportunities for historically overlooked young people. Skilled at understanding and meeting the needs of employers, visionary about the talent and potential of urban youth, and generous with its gifted staff and organizational resources, Year Up has also been an invaluable collaborator in building

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation supported the development of this site through the New Options Project, a $28 million investment designed to create innovative tools for linking job-seeking young adults with meaningful career opportunities and connecting employers with highly qualified, entry-level talent.

About Our Partners

We thank our partners who have joined our work to develop an employer-led movement to build a stronger workforce and close the opportunity divide:

  • Andrus Family Fund
  • AOL
  • Arnold Worldwide
  • Aspen Ascend Institute
  • Aspen Forum for Community Solutions
  • ConPRmetidos*
  • Edelman
  • Gap Inc.
  • Innovate+Educate
  • Intertech Plastics
  • Jobs for the Future
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • LeadersUp
  • LinkedIn
  • Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership*
  • New Profit
  • Opportunity Nation*
  • Opportunity Youth Network
  • Public Private Possibilities*
  • Small Business Majority
  • Southwire Company
  • The Ad Council
  • The New Options Project*
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • Young Invincibles*
*Founding Advisory Committee Member of the Grads of Life Campaign.

Special Note: builds on A Toolkit for Employers: Connecting Youth & Business that was created for the White House Council for Community Solutions.

About Our Funders

We gratefully acknowledge our donors who have committed to building a brighter future for opportunity youth:

  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • AOL
  • Gap Foundation
  • JPMorgan Chase Foundation
  • Patty Stonesifer and Michael Kinsley
  • The Rockefeller Foundation
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation

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More About the Grads of Life Campaign

The Grads of Life campaign is a national PSA, TV, radio and print ad campaign that is designed to transform employers’ perceptions of opportunity youth and call businesses to act. The campaign showcases young adults with atypical resumes and unique talent, who bring determination, resilience, loyalty to forward-thinking employers.

Grads of Life Campaign Toolkit


  • White House Announces #FirstJobs Compact

    The White House has announced some of the largest employers in the United States—including Walmart, Hilton, AT&T, Delta Airlines and more—have signed on to the #FirstJob Compact. These companies have committed to take a look at their hiring practices to identify ways to connect more of our nation’s young people to early career opportunities.

    In collaboration with the initiative, Grads of Life has released two tools (the Business Case Framework and a Partnership Management Tool) to support your company in incorporating Opportunity Youth into your talent pipelines.

  • 100,000 Opportunities Initiative Exceeds Goal

    The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, the country’s largest employer-led coalition committed to creating pathways to meaningful employment for young people, announced that it has met its goal of employing 100,000 Opportunity Youth in first year. Learn more here.

  • CEB Publishes Playbook to Help Employers Close the Technology Talent Gap

    CEB, an insight and technology company, recently released an Employer Playbook to help businesses recruit, hire, and develop tech talent from non-traditional sources. The free playbook is designed to provide private and public employers with best practices and tools to evaluate and improve their current technology talent hiring practices. To read the Playbook, click here.

  • MENTOR Joins Forces with LinkedIn to Mobilize Members to Mentor

    MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership is proud to join forces with LinkedIn on an initiative to elevate the impact of mentoring relationships and call on more adults to mentor. On a dedicated website –– LinkedIn will feature user stories that demonstrate the transformative potential of mentoring relationships both in the workplace and in communities between adults and young people. To read the full announcement, click here.

  • Starbucks Leads Multi-Company Initiative to Hire 100,000 Opportunity Youth

    Starbucks is teaming up with more than a dozen companies to hire 100,000 mostly low-income, 16-to-24-year-olds as apprentices, interns and part- and full-time employees by 2018. “We’re not displacing jobs, but creating incremental opportunities in most of these companies,” Mr. Schultz said in an interview. Learn more about the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative here.

  • Starbucks-backed program helping SK Food Group find workers

    SK Food Group is featured in Columbus Business First for their partnership with LeadersUp and how it is helping them fill hundreds of new jobs while giving unemployed, out-of-school youth the opportunity to advance in Ohio. Read the article here.

  • Walmart Announces $16 Million in Grants to Seven Nonprofits to Provide Training, Education and Career Pathways

    Walmart and the Walmart Foundation is investing $16 million in grants to 7 nonprofits as part of their larger $100 million commitment to creating economic mobility for the U.S. retail workforce. To read more about the announcement and the programs the grants will be supporting, click here.

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation releases white paper titled, “Making Youth Employment Work: Essential Elements for a Successful Strategy"

    On February 26, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation released a white paper titled, “Making Youth Employment Work: Essential Elements for a Successful Strategy,” at the 2015 Opportunity Summit. The paper was developed in collaboration with The Bridgespan Group and provides employers with strategies on how to forge new and customized pathways for developing young talent as part of their overall business strategy. To read the full report, click here.

  • Starbucks and the Schultz Family Foundation give young job seekers a roadmap to opportunity

    Starbucks, the Schultz Family Foundation and YouthBuild USA have launched the Retail Excellence Training Program. This national program gives students an opportunity to learn customer service skills – based on the same training Starbucks store partners (employees) receive – through classroom and on-the-job experience in retail or café settings. Learn more about this public-private partnership Starbucks is fostering to create pathways to opportunity for young adults by clicking here.

  • EY and MENTOR release the business case for private-sector engagement in mentoring young adults

    EY and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership released Mentoring: at the crossroads of education, business and community,” at MENTOR’s 2015 National Mentoring Summit. The report looks at how top US businesses work with the public and non-profit sectors to provide youth in their communities with transformative mentoring relationships. The report examines the value businesses are experiencing and calls for companies to increase their efforts to support youth mentoring in their communities. It also offers best practices for businesses looking to start mentoring opportunities or businesses interested in expanding their existing programs.

  • Secretary Duncan Visits Southwire Company

    On Monday Sept. 8, Secretary Arnie Duncan visited Southwire Company, the manufacturer whose 12 For Life program partners with the Carroll County, Georgia school system to place at-risk students in jobs at Southwire, allowing them to earn wages while working toward a diploma. Sec. Duncan stated, “12 For Life is a national model that we need other school districts to consider in their efforts to improve their graduation rate and decrease dropout rates.” Learn more about Southwire’s innovative employment pathway here.

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