Making Youth Employment Work for Businesses and Young Adults

If there is one takeaway from the NBA Playoff Finals this past week, it is that individual prowess only takes you so far. Basketball games are ultimately won—and lost—as a team. Today, the United States is participating in a competition on the global economic stage. The most successful countries, in this arena, have the skilled workers needed to drive productivity and innovation. However, with much of the workforce nearing retirement at a time when many industries are experiencing rapid growth, the United States’ ability to remain competitive is at risk. Any future success will depend on how well the nation works together to develop youth and young adults for the jobs of tomorrow.

What is the current situation? There are nearly 5.5 million young adults both out of school and out of work. More so, the underemployment rate among recent college graduates stubbornly hovers around 45%. Put simply, the United States is experiencing a serious disconnect between what employers need and what prospective employees are able to do. Now is the right time to explore new solutions for preparing talent on a national scale.

Beginning in 2014, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) advanced an employer-led approach to education and workforce partnerships by leveraging lessons learned from supply chain management. Just as supply chains create a network of partners working together to meet a common end goal, key to the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative is the business community organizing the right partners to meet a common objective.

Recently, USCCF released a new report titled Talent Orchestrators: Scaling Youth Employment Through Business-Facing Intermediaries. It leverages TPM’s demand-driven approach to reimagine how employers and education providers can work together to increase work-based learning and entry-level employment opportunities for young adults. Specifically, the report outlines how intermediaries—organizations that connect business and youth—are well positioned to coordinate interactions that address human capital needs while creating opportunities for aspiring youth. However, they traditionally face three main barriers to expanding youth employment efforts:
  • Obtaining employer buy-in: Intermediaries spend a substantial amount of time brokering relationships with employers to take on interns or employees. But successful onboarding of new employer relationships or maintaining current ones is often met with mixed results.
  • Making a good match: Intermediaries often experience a mismatch between the supply and demand for talent, making it difficult to meet the needs of employer and young adults alike.
  • Ensuring that youth can add value on day one: With the decline in low-skilled jobs, intermediaries face more pressure to find youth with the skills and competencies that add value to the employer partner at the outset.
To overcome these barriers, the report includes recommendations for how intermediaries can offer a combination of demand-driven services to help employers work seamlessly with education and training providers. These design principles encourage intermediaries to effectively orchestrate talent by:
  • Creating shared value. Intermediaries can focus on serving employers well without sacrificing their mission to support young adults—a win-win for all stakeholders.
  • Managing talent sourcing. Intermediaries not only identify talent, but they manage a wide network of proven partners training in-school and out of school youth.
  • Providing training and credentialing support. Effective intermediaries deliver to both youth and employers the necessary job-specific training and supports for a successful youth employment experience.
This report is the latest work of USCCF’s Youth Employment initiative which is focused on closing the skills gap by providing customized tactics for the private sector to develop young talent as a part of its overall business strategy. Visit to learn more.

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.

Innovation, Skills Gap, Workforce Development,
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