Opportunity Youth Are Resilient and Loyal

They’re motivated, talented and often overlooked

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.

Young adults were among the hardest hit populations by the recession - and have yet to recover.
Less than half of young people ages 16-24 held jobs from 2009-2013- the lowest youth employment level on record
Measure of America.
One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnect In the 25 Largest Metro Areas. 2012.
50% are people of color
Belfield, Clive, et al. The Economics of Investing in Opportunity Youth. September 2012.
They are ⅓ less likely to graduate from high school
Belfield, Clive, et al. The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth. January 2012.
Only 1% obtain a four-year degree by age 28
They are more likely to have parents who did not graduate from high school

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.

Opportunity youth face many challenges, but like most young people, they remain motivated to succeed and eager to learn and develop professionally.
Civic Enterprises & America’s Promise Alliance. Opportunity Road: The Promise and Challenge of America’s Forgotten Youth. January 2012.
Some 77 percent of opportunity youth believe that getting a good education and job are their responsibilities.
Civic Enterprises & America’s Promise Alliance. Opportunity Road: The Promise and Challenge of America’s Forgotten Youth. January 2012.
85% want a good career and job.
Civic Enterprises & America’s Promise Alliance. Opportunity Road: The Promise and Challenge of America’s Forgotten Youth. January 2012.
67% want a college or technical degree.
They’re Hungry to Prove Themselves

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

They’re Engaged and Tenacious

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.

Profile of Opportunity Youth
They represent varied racial and socio-economic backgrounds and offer different perspectives and experiences.
They don’t take opportunities for granted and want to continue to grow.
They appreciate those who invest in them.
Life challenges have only strengthened their drive to succeed.
They Just Need a Chance

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

Interested in learning more about Opportunity Youth?

Check out our tools & resources section