Youth Not Getting Job Opportunities They Need

What would happen if everyone in your office younger than 25 years old just disappeared? That’s the question asked — and hopefully answered — via a study released yesterday that examines youth employment and how to prepare your organization for the future.

“Youth Hold the Key: Building Your Workforce Today and in the Future,” released by The Bridgespan Group and Bain & Co., with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, is based on survey of 350 employers, more than 80 interviews with employers and workforce experts conducted last year by The Bridgespan Group and Bain & Company. The study is authored by Abigail Carlton, Michael Ciccarone, Willa Seldon, and Vikkie Tam.

“Despite efforts by individual employers to hire young people, whether because of business need or corporate social responsibility, these efforts are not achieving the scale needed to address employer workforce needs nor the ambitions of our youth,” said Seldon, a partner at Bridgespan.

The biggest reasons for youth hiring cited by employers was filling entry-level positions, but other motivations included:

  • Supporting a shift to a tech-intensive strategy;
  • Strengthening the current and future customer base; and,
  • Building internal and external brand image and loyalty.

The largest numbers of new, low-skilled, entry-level jobs in the next decade are likely to be in healthcare (1.3 million), retail (1 million), food services (800,000), and construction (500,000). Meanwhile, the work force is aging, with 25 percent of the labor forced expected to be age 55 or older by 2020, almost twice as high a percentage as in 2000.

For businesses, the most commonly cited challenges to hiring youth were difficulty finding the right match; soft skills and professionalism; job-specific skills, and turnover.

“Creating the right match for employers and youth at scale will require building on existing models that are working and pursuing new hiring approaches,” said Carlton, an associate director at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Companies need to approach youth hiring initiatives – which may have started as philanthropic or corporate social responsibility investments – as part of their workforce strategy and integrate them more closely with core business operations,” said Tam, a partner from Bain & Company.

“Youth Hold The Key” also examined what’s working in terms of employer-led initiatives around hiring youth. The paper cited a partnership between State Street, a global financial services company, and Year Up, a one-year intensive training program that provides low-income young adults with hands-on training, internships and support. Each year, State Street hosts a number of Year Up interns with the intention of transitioning most of them into full-time, entry-level positions.

This Way Ahead provides career exploration, job readiness training, and competitive internship opportunities for underserved youth ages 16 to 21 in several U.S. cities. After completing career exploration and job readiness phases of the program, participants 16 and older are invited for a three-month paid internship with participating Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic stores.

Four best practices were identified in the paper:

  • Youth employment is considered a CEO/executive-level priority and important to the company’s workforce strategy;
  • Youth employment efforts are clearly tied to business needs;
  • Efforts must go beyond corporate social responsibility function; and,
  • The company pursues multiple avenues to embed the new practices.