Opportunity youth are the 5.8 million young adults in this country who are out of school and seeking work. They’ve been overlooked by traditional hiring methods (these include resume reviews, interviews and standard educational requirements that rely on traditional degrees such as high school and college diplomas, GEDs, etc.) - ironically at a time of high unemployment, even though two-thirds of employers can’t find qualified workers to fill open non-managerial roles.
Due to challenging life circumstances, these young adults lack access to opportunities for developing the skills and experience needed to enter the workforce and find meaningful careers. Opportunity youth often juggle multiple responsibilities, such as siblings and children, lack access to professional networks and higher education, and indeed have fallen through the cracks of the traditional education system.
Opportunity youth are resilient: they are optimistic and confident that they will achieve their career and life goals despite the obstacles they may need to surmount. Seventy-three percent are confident or hopeful about achieving their goals, and 65 percent have a goal to finish high school or college and know they can achieve it.
While opportunity youth might lack access to opportunities for skills development and meaningful employment pathways, they’re anxious to create brighter futures. Though motivated to work, they continue to face barriers, such as the high cost of education and lack of transportation. Many report that although they’re driven to succeed, they feel “invisible” to the system and find it difficult to identify job opportunities that match their potential.
“My peers and I are hard workers. We’re hungry for opportunities. We strive to be the best citizens and workers. Where we come from isn’t a liability, it’s an asset.”
- Opportunity Youth from Chicago Scholars Mentoring Program
Employers have found that the secret to finding motivated, loyal employees is to give an opportunity to a young person who truly wants one. Opportunity youth have persevered through tough challenges, and often emerge with a greater desire to succeed in their careers. That’s grit you can’t teach. What’s more, their diverse backgrounds bring a fresh perspective to business challenges.
Your business can do well by doing good. Give opportunity youth your support and they’ll work hard everyday to make the most of the opportunity. There are many partner organizations that can not only help you connect with opportunity youth, but also ensure they come to you trained with marketable skills.
“A lot of times, youth like myself don’t see outside of what they’re used to. They don’t have any family/friends they can look up to. They don’t know what it’s like to think outside the box because the box is so small. I knew I wanted to think outside the box but didn’t know what was out there. I only wish I had known sooner.”
- Opportunity Youth