Join The NonProfit Times: or Become a member

Subscribe: Print Publication or Newsletter

Stay connected.
Stay informed.

Youth Unemployment

By John Irons and Willa Seldon - January 31, 2014

Three years after the Great Recession officially ended, America’s unemployed young people have seen little improvement in their job prospects. The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds peaked at 18.4 percent in early 2010 and has since declined to 16.3 percent. By comparison, the overall unemployment rate fell from 10 percent to 7.3 percent.

It remains stubbornly high despite the $7 billion government and philanthropy spend annually to address it, most of which goes to education and job training programs run by nonprofits. Employers have a seat at the table to help design and support successful youth training initiatives. It’s clear from recent research that employer engagement in youth training programs does not happen often enough.

Yet without employers on board, real progress in reducing youth unemployment isn’t likely to happen. Based on interviews with nonprofits, foundations, and employers, organizations have to focus on three key questions: Who are the employers most likely to hire young people in my region?; How do I best present them with the business case for hiring young people?; and, How do I tailor skills training to what employers really need?

In the San Francisco area, Goodwill Industries’ San Francisco affiliate trains disadvantaged young people and adults for entry-level jobs, so it has to know who is hiring. “We need to know like the back of our hand which sectors are appropriate for our constituencies, and how do we get greater engagement not only with specific employers but whole sectors,” said Joshua Lachs, Goodwill’s chief of workforce development and community engagement.

Goodwill identified the warehousing sector as a potentially good source of entry-level jobs and established a warehousing academy to teach specific skills. Within that sector, Goodwill also targets specialized areas. “There’s a produce association that represents companies with a big need for more employees,” Lachs explained. Goodwill designed a warehousing academy module around produce handling. “Once our graduates finish the program, we’ve got that pipeline into the produce association,” said Lachs.

Making the case to hire young people is front-and-center for Genesys Works Bay Area in San Francisco, Calif. The organization provides high school trainees with entry-level IT and professional skills and matches them to a part-time position with a corporate partner during the young person’s senior year. When Genesys Works talks to employers, “We won’t position it as a charity. That actually just perpetuates the stigma that high schoolers don’t have inherent value on their own as employees,” said Program Director Rita Ebach.

Tailoring training to employer needs is the only way to ensure that young people exit a program with the right skills. “It’s important to talk to employers,” something not all nonprofits do, according to Gail Gershon, executive director of community leadership for the Gap Foundation in San Francisco, Calif. Describing the Gap’s partnership with one nonprofit, Gershon said, “When we started, they had an existing job readiness program. We took the curriculum to a store manager and asked if the skills would be useful. The training team added eight topics that weren’t covered — things like conflict resolution, customer service, making smart decisions for the long-term, even if that means short-term sacrifices. It’s a very-real world, and the nonprofit hadn’t thought about putting that in the curriculum. If an employer could equip nonprofits working with youth with feedback on how to improve their curriculum for the real world, that would be really valuable.”

Goodwill, Genesys Works, and the Gap Foundation are examples showing how nonprofits, foundations, and governments can work more effectively with employers to train young people for meaningful work. And employers also have a leadership role in creating more connections between what they do to make a better company and what they do to make a better world.  NPT

 John Irons is managing director of foundation initiatives at The Rockefeller Foundation in New York City. His email is  Willa Seldon is a partner at The Bridgespan Group’s San Francisco office. Her email is


Sponsored Podcasts

Welcome to the Raise & Engage podcast, a filters-off series for nonprofit professionals hosted by Blackbaud's straight-shooting expert Danielle Johnson Vermenton. During this open-mic session, you’ll hear honest advice to help YOU do more for your cause.

Episode 6: The Power of ‘No’ at Work|| daniellejohnson-76

You have a job description, but on any given day, you're probably doing dozens of things outside the scope of that description. Combine that with the challenge of a fast-paced environment and the shifting priorities of funders, colleagues, and board members and it’s easy to fall short of doing your best. By being mindful of your limitations and capacity—and saying “no” when your plate is full—you can actually do more for your cause. In the sixth installment of the Raise and Engage podcast Danielle Johnson and Robin Anderson discuss the power of saying “no” at work.

Episode 5: Professional Development: Getting Un-Stuck|| daniellejohnson-76

In the most recent episode of Raise + Engage, Danielle is back with Brian Reich from little m media to discuss how nonprofit professionals can stay motivated and energized in their day-to-day roles. Brian shares his experience working with nonprofits and the lessons and tips he's learn from and shared with them over the years, including tips for avoiding a professional rut, creating forward momentum in your career and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you're considering making a career move or want to ensure you're on the right path, you won't want to miss this inspo-packed episode!

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane, is all about tips, tricks and tools for sanity. Blackbaud’s own interactive product marketer, Julia Lenz, joins host Danielle Johnson to share some high tech. (and no tech.) productivity tips to help nonprofit professionals stay sane in the crazy world of philanthropy.

Tune in to hear:

  • Tips for how to spend the first 30 minutes of your day
  • The benefits of 15 minute meetings
  • Why notebooks are still relevant to a successful organization
  • Ideas for better managing your inbox
  • Why you should take lunch outside the box
  • ...and much more!
Don’t forget to visit the #NoFilterNonprofit Hub afterwards to download our newest tip sheet10 Productivity Hacks for Nonprofits.

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff In episode 3 of the Raise + Engage podcast, Danielle Johnson is joined by Chris Geady and William DaSilva, two IT experts in the nonprofit space, to talk technology integration for NPOs: when you need it, when you don’t, and how to do it successfully.

Tune in to hear:

  • When to say NO to integration
  • How to set your strategic plan before even looking at technologies
  • Ways to get your entire team on board
  • The importance of identifying a project lead
  • The RFP process - how it should and should not go
And William shares a story about a nonprofit that may or may not have still been using a typewriter. You don't want to miss this one!

Episode 2: From Socially Awkward to Socially Awesome! || daniellejohnson-76

According to Danielle Johnson, straight-shooting host of the Raise + Engage podcast series, if your staff members aren’t the number one advocates for your cause on social media, you’re failing. In the most recent episode, Danielle is joined by Blackbaud’s own social media guru Madeline Turner to discuss overcoming social struggles and creating a social ambassador program at your organization. This entertaining and insightful duo dishes on the importance of making your social media presence human, making the case for a formal social program to leadership, how University of Michigan turned a one time social media campaign into a long term social program, and how Madeline's mom unknowingly became a social ambassador on #GivingTuesday.

Episode 1: Corporate Culture & Development: Shake It Up! || daniellejohnson-76

In the premiere episode of Raise & Engage, Danielle is joined by three straight-shooting nonprofit rock-stars: Jodi Smith of Sanford Health Systems, Veronica Brown of Chicago Public Library Foundation and Ali Burke of Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation. The group talks organizational culture, problem employees, why its important to celebrate and how to shake things up this year and build a better more authentic team that gets stuff done!


Stay informed, catch latest trends in the nonprofit space.

Subscribe to Our Free Newsletter

No obligation, unsubscribe at anytime.

Success! Check your email inbox.

Follow Us On Twitter

NPT 2016 Buyers' Guide

Newsletter Sign-up

click here to return to the previous page