The 5.8M Young Adults We’ve Been Overlooking

Here are the facts:

Opportunity Youth are the 5.8 million young adults in this country who are out of school and seeking work. Ironically at a time of high unemployment—when two-thirds of employers can’t find qualified workers to fill open non-managerial roles—these young adults are still being overlooked by traditional hiring methods.

Due to challenging life circumstances, Opportunity Youth lack access to the chance to develop the skills and experience needed to enter the workforce and find meaningful careers. They 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. They are also more likely to have parents who did not graduate from high school.

And yet, Opportunity Youth are resilient. They are optimistic. They are confident that they will achieve their career and life goals despite the obstacles they may need to surmount.
  • 65% have a goal to finish high school or college and know they can achieve it
  • 85% want a good career and job
  • 73% are confident or hopeful about achieving their goals
Like most young people, Opportunity Youth remain motivated to succeed and eager to learn and develop professionally. Here are two reasons why:
  1. They’re Engaged and Tenacious They 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.
  2. They’re Hungry to Prove Themselves While they might lack access to opportunities for skills development and meaningful employment, they’re anxious and willing to make sacrifices in order to create brighter futures.


“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 a motivated, loyal employee is to give an opportunity to a young person who truly wants one. By seeking out Opportunity Youth, businesses can do well by doing good while accessing talent that is:
  1. Diverse: Opportunity Youth represent varied racial and socio-economic backgrounds and offer different perspectives and experiences.
  2. Motivated: Opportunity Youth don’t take opportunities for granted and want to continue to grow.
  3. Loyal: Opportunity Youth appreciate those who invest in them.
  4. Resilient: Life challenges have only strengthened their drive to succeed.
“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

Opportunity Youth just need a chance. Give them your support and they’ll work hard every day to make the most of the opportunity. Guaranteed.


The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.


Business Case, Diversity, Income Inequality,
Related News
View All News
Strong Social Enterprises Boost Individual Lives And The Nation's Economy
June 8th, 2017 | By Grads of Life

When the baseball season started and new youth started their jobs at our sites in Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, and...Read More

How State Street Builds Partnerships To Strengthen Boston's Future Workforce
May 30th, 2017 | By Dan Horgan

According to the Boston Private Industry Council, early participation in the workforce has positive, long-term impacts on...Read More

How To Address Bias In The Workplace
May 25th, 2017 | By Tayo Rockson

Following my last article on workforce diversity, I want to hone in on a specific issue that affects many hiring decisions...Read More