Los Angeles Employers Meet With 6,000 Potential New Hires

Past the winding line of anxious attendees, down the hall decorated with oversized displays of quotes ranging from Maya Angelo to Common, and through a black curtain is Ariel Flowers. You can’t miss her. She’s beaming with excitement and carrying a bright orange purse.

It’s 10 o’clock in the morning and Flowers has already landed two jobs at the Los Angeles Opportunity Fair, which took place at the LA Convention Center Thursday.

“I was doing my hair this morning and I already knew I was going to get a job,” she said. “I just didn’t know which one.”

Luckily, attendees didn’t need a bright orange purse to grab the attention of any one of the 36 potential employers that set up booths and conducted face-to-face interviews at the event. Previous events in Phoenix and Chicago have shown a growing sense of urgency and eagerness from both participants and employers to open lines of communication between the workforce and an untapped talent pool known as “opportunity youth,” Americans between the ages 16 and 24 who are out of school and not working. In Phoenix, 1,700 young people met with 25 companies who offered more than 500 jobs that day.  In Chicago, over 30 employers offered on-the-spot jobs to over 600 of the 4,000 young people in attendance. Los Angeles had 6,000 registrants. According to the LA Chamber of Commerce there are roughly 200,000 disconnected youth in the county.

“It’s a huge portion of our youth population that just aren’t on track to be part of the workforce,” said Carrie Shapton, a senior manager at LA Compact, an organization run out of the LA Chamber of Commerce. “We see more interest in employers who are seeing the crisis we’re facing in youth employment and the 100,000 initiative is a great opportunity for LA to use that momentum.”

Face-to-face interviews and direct hiring happened in small divisions of curtained-off areas where prospects sat tall, made direct eye contact and, at times, clasped their hands to avoid nervous fidgeting. A lot of them have been polished by various non-profits in the area focused on teaching skills and professionalism to opportunity youth. Flowers had attended the Brotherhood Crusade, a non-profit organization addressing the needs of South Los Angeles’ underserved populations, after being laid off from her airport job where she brushed up on her customer service best practices in addition to refining her resume and participating in mock interview sessions.

“We can teach anyone to make a latte,” said Charlie Utter, the Los Angeles regional director of operations for Starbucks, one of the companies funding the event. “What we’re looking for is capability, character and personality. We are for experience but a lot of what we’re looking for is longevity, hard work, working under pressure and a lot of non-work experience.”

Access to programs like Brotherhood Crusade as well as other services, non-employment based but employment focused, like legal advisors and continuing education programs, was also available at the event. Laptop computers were set up at a far corner where attendees could fill out applications and update their resumes. Tables were set up for mock interviews and a section of the center was devoted to resume building. For seven hours, the LA Convention Center was transformed into a one-stop shop for opportunity youth to access services they might have otherwise missed. More importantly, employers may have missed them.

As the name suggests, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is a coalition of leading U.S.-based companies committed to training and hiring 100,000 opportunity youth by 2018. Reps at the LA event were mainly hiring for entry-level customer service positions. Flowers had received offers from HMS Host and Taco Bell. According to Utter, Starbucks hoped to hire 400 baristas by the end of the day, contingent on turnout.

“The synergy seems kind of obvious,” said Utter. “We hire in these communities already but I think we’re being more intentional about it and leveraging our scale to make more of an impact.”

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, Management & Leadership, Workforce Development,
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