A Landmark Event To Connect Chicago’s Youth To Career Opportunity

A purposeful energy and determination was palpable at LeadersUp’s Chicago Career 360: The Experience. Young adults from across the Chicagoland region entered the Lacuna Artist Lofts – not only looking for employment – but also seeking a gateway to new possibilities. Our team connected every single young man and woman in attendance to interview opportunities with employers in the Transportation, Distribution and Logistics sector. The employer partners present included title sponsors C.H. Robinson, FedEx Freight and FedEx Express, plus SCR Medical Transportation, Becker Logistics, and United Airlines. All five companies offered on-the-spot hiring and career exploration for nearly 100 attendees. We prepared Chicago’s Opportunity Youth for the hiring event with mock interview sessions and helped them polish their essential career readiness skills with our P.O.W.E.R. Skills curriculum. Many of the young adults who attended these trainings, like 23 year-old Kymonee Cannon, secured multiple job offers. “I got the job with C.H. Robinson and Becker Logistics,” shared Kymonee, a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago. “I felt like this event wanted to help people who wanted to come, people who wanted to make a difference in their life. My biggest inspiration is my son. I came to the event because I wanted to better my chances of finding my career and better my life.”
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Chicago Career 360 marked our first experiential hiring event. I could not be more proud of the young adults that showed up with the resolve to start their careers – by not just interviewing but also authentically illustrating their skills to employers. The goal of Chicago Career 360 was to provide a launch pad for young adults who often face hiring biases due to a lack of experience. Our achievement of this goal was made possible through our partnership with Skill Scout. We worked with Skill Scout, a local Chicago talent platform and disrupter, to develop hands-on activities tailored to each of the employer’s open positions. This innovative interviewing format allowed candidates to truly experience what each position demanded, while also allowing companies to assess the skills and competencies of each candidate. The result was a more effective hiring match. “I loved the Skill Scout component. It was really helpful and helped set the expectations of the jobs,” shared Kymonee. When asked about the importance of the experiential interviewing at Chicago Career 360, Angie Freeman, C.H. Robinson’s Chief Human Resources Officer shared, “This is a game changer. We get a better picture of each candidate’s current skill sets and future potential. Equally important, the candidates get a realistic job preview and a better understanding of the preliminary skills required to be successful in the role. This stronger alignment between job seekers and the hiring manager is critical to a successful fit.” Measuring the Talent-Divide to Create Sustainable Impact The road to Chicago Career 360 consisted of a series of defining events with stakeholders, employers, and young adults. Our goal was to gain insight into Chicago’s youth unemployment landscape and provide solutions to the talent-divide challenge. In partnership with Measure of America, a research and advocacy project of the Social Science Research Council, we distilled initial findings and released a white paper from our Innovation Session on the current realities of the Chicago youth unemployment challenge and the viable opportunities for stemming this crisis through employer-led hiring initiatives. You can download the full report and check out highlights from the Innovation Session in the video below.
Opportunity Beyond Jobs for Chicago’s Young Adults We know that the barriers to employment young adults face are systemic and require the brain trust and resources of the entire community if they are to be dismantled. This is why throughout the day, young adults had the opportunity to receive expert advice, resources and tips through the “Views and Power Moves” workshop circuit. In this curated guest speaker experience, individuals gained vital information on learning new professional skills, building strong financial profiles, becoming entrepreneurial professionals, and maintaining a healthy life balance – empowering them to persevere on their career journey. “I really enjoyed the workshops. I felt I was getting thought-provoking messages,” shared Kymonee. “I also enjoyed hearing from professionals who acknowledged the problems we have in Chicago. To have someone come in that wants to help – that wants to see you succeed – means a lot. They made me feel prepared for the interviews.” In addition to receiving expert advice, attendees participated in mock interviews, LinkedIn Learning modules, healthy food tips from the Fresh Moves Mobile Market, and Grads of Life’s experiential booth – where they learned how to succinctly express their life experiences and connect them to the needs of employers. The Path Forward A single event will not suffice to connect the over 140,000 Opportunity Youth in Chicagoland with career opportunities. Breaking young adults free of the holding pattern caused by undeveloped professional skills necessary for career success is a responsibility we all share. If left unaddressed, there will be severe consequences for our economy, our communities and our future. We so often view solving the talent-divide challenge solely through the lens of workforce development. It’s time we widen our lens of focus and put humanity alongside workforce development. For business leaders interested in building a talent pipeline of Opportunity Youth but not knowing where to begin, community leaders striving to prepare their youth to succeed with limited resources, and young adults pursuing their goals despite the unimaginable circumstances they may face – the time is now. We need to ensure we are meeting the real needs of each stakeholder. Achieving this starts with you. We are just getting starting and want to hear from you. Let us know how you would like to be part of this movement here. I encourage you to learn more about the impact achieved by reading this piece from the Chicago Tribune http://bit.ly/career360event and visiting our Facebook page to view additional images from Chicago Career 360.

Jeffery Wallace (@JefferyTDW) is the President & CEO of LeadersUp and social innovator committed to bridging the opportunity divide between the untapped potential of young people and the business challenge of finding and keeping the best talent. Prior to founding LeadersUp, Jeffery served as the Chief of Staff and Sr. Program Officer for the Los Angeles Urban League, where he led the human capital, programmatic architecture, and policy agenda of the comprehensive community change initiative in South Los Angeles. He is a native of Richmond, California, a graduate of University of California Los Angeles and University of California Berkeley, and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

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.


Hiring & Retention Practices, Innovation, Partnerships, Workforce Development,
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