From left: Jonathan Njus; Denise Hebner; Leasie Clark; Elyse Rosenblum; and Kavitha Cardoza
There are currently 6.7 million opportunity youth, ages 16-24 who are out of school and seeking work, and 1.4 million of those young adults are parents to more than 2 million children. Through my work with employers, I know that while these young parents strive to connect to employment, U.S. employers still struggle to find skilled and diverse talent.
That is why I was thrilled to co-host and participate in a dynamic conversation that highlighted best practice employment pathways for young parents in the private sector and examined the critical role employers play in creating opportunities that support two-generation strategies.
During the conversation, moderated by WAMU’s Kavitha Cardoza, we discussed the business, economic and social imperative for connecting these young adults to employment pathways. Employment pathways train young adults with workplace skills that match workforce needs and provide young people with work-based learning experiences, such as internship, skills training and apprenticeship opportunities.
Denise Hebner, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at UBS Americas, honed in on the business case for employers to invest in employment pathways. UBS partners with Year Up, a skills training and internship program, because they want to diversify their workforce, to contribute to the community, and to grow UBS managers’ skills to develop talent. As Denise clarified the business case for employer engagement, Leasia Clark, an employee at UBS and Year Up alum, discussed the benefits to the young adults who participate. She said her experiences interning at UBS gave her the opportunity to grow professionally and more importantly, to support her daughter. When asked what this experience will mean for her daughter, she said she hopes that her daughter will provide “a window into opportunity for other kids who do not have it.”
At the Employment Pathways Project, we are catalyzing a national effort to “flip the switch” on employer demand for opportunity youth. Private sector leaders, like Denise, who understand the tangible value young adults offer are playing a critical role in changing recruiting, training, and hiring practices. While this conversation highlighted one best practice partnership, Year Up and UBS, we know that it will take many more employers who understand the value opportunity youth bring to business to change social norms in the employer community and to reconnect many more young adults and parents with work opportunities. We look forward to future partnerships with Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions to spotlight ways the private sector can support employment pathways and other two-generation solutions.
 Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT (2012). Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity. Policy Report of Kids Count.