Redefining The Way Companies Build A Twenty-First Century Workforce

By Elyse Rosenblum

Our initiative, Grads of Life, sits at a unique crossroads of workforce training organizations, employers, social innovators and thought leaders who are committed and focused on solving the same problem: closing the Opportunity Divide. But in order to address some of the longstanding factors that have contributed to the unequal distribution of employment and education opportunities across this country, we must collectively and strategically chip away at our perception of what talent looks like.

Grads of Life knows that Opportunity Youth, young people ages 16-24, who are not on a traditional trajectory to a four-year degree, are frequently overlooked for entry-level employment opportunities that would position them to earn livable wages despite the skills and attributes they can bring to the workplace. All too often, employers eliminate applicants based on educational requirements rather than the actual skills required by the job—skills like perseverance, loyalty, and grit, which Opportunity Youth have acquired through life experiences which provide significant business value.
Grads of Life, is working to catalyze market demand by transforming employer perceptions and hiring practices around Opportunity Youth. Our innovative focus on the demand side of the talent marketplace harnesses the power of the private sector and mobilizes an employer-led movement to create sustainable employment pathways for Opportunity Youth nationwide. We do this through an integrated strategy that includes a national multi-media campaign to shift employer perceptions; individual, association, and sector level partnerships with employers to help them create Opportunity Youth talent pipelines; and research into the business case for building pipelines. We recognize that in order to provide access to meaningful careers, the private sector has to be engaged, and this starts with companies seeing Opportunity Youth as a viable solution to their talent needs.

The latest version of our multimedia campaign, developed in collaboration with the Ad Council highlights the concept of ‘more than what’s on paper’—the idea that the attributes and skills that Opportunity Youth bring to the table are often not captured on a traditional resume. Since the initial campaign launch in September 2014, we have received more than $81M in donated media.
In conjunction with the new campaign, we have relaunched an updated version of the Grads of Life website focused squarely on providing employers with the tools and best practices they need to build Opportunity Youth talent pipelines and understand the business value these young adults bring to their companies.

One powerful component of the new PSA campaign is the “Real 7 Second Resume”, a collection of short videos emphasizing the strengths

Opportunity Youth bring to the workplace. Each video is seven seconds in length because that is the average amount of time a hiring manager spends evaluating a resume. We have launched a social campaign to generate hundreds more videos and have already begun partnering with workforce training organizations, such as Leaders Up and Year Up, to share this powerful marketing platform with their program participants and employer partners so that Opportunity Youth can have the chance to speak directly to employers about the value they can bring to their companies.
As the Grads of Life team continues to identify and design innovative practices, tools, and solutions that help employers meet their evolving talent needs, we hope to see significant changes in the way the marketplace views the available pipeline of talent coined Opportunity Youth. With over 6 million jobs available and 5 million young adults out of work and school, the solution is obvious: Employers must begin to “look beyond the resume” to develop a sustainable 21st-century workforce and ultimately ensure a robust and competitive economy in the future.

To learn more about Grads of Life, visit Grads of LifeVoice.

Elyse Rosenblum is the Principal for Grads of Life.

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