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Scoop This! Companies Tap into New Talent by Providing #FirstJob Opportunities

Human resource leaders from major companies discuss how they are connecting out-of-work, out-of-school young people to a #FirstJob and why it matters for their businesses

“When you’re just starting off in the working world, the prospect of finding a job with a blank resume, limited education, and no meaningful connections to employers can be daunting… My Administration has called for investments in first jobs for young people, and I hope our leading companies will step up to do the same.” 

 -- President Barack Obama, February 2016

President Obama at Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu
President Obama’s first job was scooping ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu.

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education John King and colleagues from across the Administration met with chief human resource officers from more than 20 national companies and partners regarding the White House #FirstJob Compact—a set of best practices for hiring and supporting disconnected youth. Several youth advocates and youth-serving organizations also joined to share their insights and provide information on resources available to help employers expand #FirstJob opportunities for young people.

For the one in seven young people in the U.S. who are not in school and without a job – commonly referred to as opportunity youth or disconnected youth – securing that first job can seem like an impossible task. And spells of unemployment early in life can have lasting negative consequences. Research suggests that people who experience unemployment between ages 16 and 24 earn $400,000 less over their careers. That is why President Obama launched the #FirstJob Compact in October in conjunction with his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a coordinated effort to help ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

At this week’s convening, the Rockefeller Foundation shared research on “Impact Hiring,” an approach to recruit, assess, and support younger workers more effectively with tech- and data-enabled tools. For instance, improving recruitment practices through better coordination among youth-serving organizations.  Impact hiring can also mean using better assessment tools – shifting from a reliance on job requirements that serve as imperfect proxies for job fit to the use of data-driven tools that allow candidates to demonstrate how their skills fit with job needs regardless of how those skills have been obtained. And finally, it can mean gathering better data on retention to figure out what practices work best to keep and grow young talent.

Other take-aways from this week’s discussion included:

  • Hiring Opportunity Youth Has a Double Bottom Line.  Participating companies indicated that while there are worthwhile societal and moral objectives to opportunity youth hiring strategies, the main rationale is a business one. Companies that have hired disconnected youth report higher retention rates and employee engagement for this group relative to typical employees. And with turnover rates among entry-level staff exceeding 50 percent in some sectors, increasing retention rates can lead to significant savings. One company explained that because over 90 percent of its managers come up the ranks from entry-level positions, it is critical to bring people into the organization who are interested in making it a career.

  • Industry-wide Investments in Developing Young Talent Help All Companies Benefit in the Long Run.  Human resources executives discussed two distinct talent strategies. First, companies across an industry can collectively invest in, train, and mentor the young workforce of the future. Alternatively, employers can provide limited training while seeking to poach more experienced talent from competitors. Though the latter approach is more common in today’s economy, it is not a long-term strategy for the sustainable growth of an industry. To address this concern, participants brainstormed ways to strengthen the overall workforce by taking a shared approach and investing in solid pipelines of young talent.

  • Front-Line Managers Are Key to a Successful Opportunity Youth Hiring and Retention Strategy.  Deploying a successful strategy to recruit, keep, and grow opportunity youth requires ownership and buy-in not only from the c-suite, but the front-line managers who are making hiring decisions and interacting with team members every day. Several participants explained that success in entry-level roles often relies on grit, motivation, and patience rather than job-specific experiences or schooling. That means hiring managers need to be trained to screen for those attributes when considering opportunity youth with limited resumes. Additionally, several participants highlighted what an impact honest feedback, care and consideration from front-line management can have on the retention and motivation of newer employees.

  • Partnerships with Community-Based Organizations to Help Companies Find and Source Opportunity Youth Matter.  Participants gave numerous examples of the impact of public and non-profit organizations in sourcing and supporting opportunity youth. However, human resource officers indicated that identifying partner organizations among hundreds of options in each part of the country is far too burdensome. This often inhibits the implementation of impact hiring strategies. Additionally, companies commented that organizations supporting young people often fail to collaborate with one another, which adds complexity for employers. Companies brainstormed a few potential solutions to these issues. First, the creation of a national umbrella that could serve as an initial touch point for companies looking to hire opportunity youth and direct employers to local non-profits. Second, they suggested that youth-serving organizations within a region work to aggregate their talent pools prior to approaching an employer rather than working in a bespoke way.

  • Better Data on Hiring Outcomes is Important for Scale.  The majority of companies indicated that they do not track which candidates are opportunity youth when hired and typically do not assess the impact of hiring decisions on employee performance and retention. Companies highlighted that in order to really grow new impact hiring approaches within their organizations, it will be critical to have data that demonstrates the business value of opportunity youth to human resource leaders. Without good data systems and tracking, this sort of outcomes validation is virtually impossible.

Secretary King also announced that the U.S. Department of Education, in consultation with the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, will provide technical assistance funding to help public housing authorities connect youth who have aged out of the foster care system with high-quality career and technical education programs. Through this investment, the Department of Education hopes to assist existing career technical education programs to better meet the needs of current and former foster youth. The project also seeks to improve coordination among the child welfare system and other federally-funded programs.

Finally, the Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education released an Employability Skills How to Guide for employers, educators, and policymakers to inform the instruction and assessment of “employability skills” for opportunity youth. These are skills like organizational and interpersonal skills, which companies indicate are some of the most critical attributes of successful employees, particularly for entry-level roles.

We were encouraged by the creativity and commitment of the companies and partners who attended. Below are more details on what some of these companies are doing as a part of the #FirstJob Compact.

The #FirstJob Compact


The Human Resources, operational, and corporate social responsibility leaders of my business are committed to inclusive hiring practices that open up pathways for out of school, out of work young people to apply and be fully considered for jobs at my company by adopting the following practices:

(1) Identify jobs and internships that can be filled by young workers (ages 16 to 24) with little or no prior experience. If needed, appropriately adjust job descriptions, application, screening, and interview process to make them more accessible to low-income teens and young adults.

(2) Partner with nonprofits, school districts, workforce development boards, and others to identify and recruit opportunity youth in specific regions where you operate.

(3) Develop a plan to support opportunity youth once hired so they can gain the skills and experiences needed to move up in a career or educational pathway (for example, partner with local nonprofits to provide job coaches or identify internal mentors).

(4) Take steps to create data systems to track and capture results so you can demonstrate how hiring opportunity youth adds business value.

(5) Develop internal and external communications strategy to share outcomes of opportunity youth hiring initiatives with HR and operational leaders.


Companies. More detailed descriptions of some of the commitments of #FirstJob Compact signers are below. More details can be found here.

3M. 3M is committed to giving real work exposure and mentorship to 400 Opportunity Youth over the next 10 years.  The company’s current initiative “STEP” (Science Training Encouragement Program) affords learning and internship opportunities for about 40 Opportunity Youth annually in St. Paul, MN.  -This program exposes youth to hands-on training and students are paired with 3M mentors to create stronger career pathways.  3M is also committed to training youth for future careers and evaluating its own job descriptions and screen processes to ensure they are accessible to teens and young adults.

AT&T.  To help reduce employment barriers, AT&T removed the requirement for a resume during the application process and have provided alternatives to requiring years of experience. The company also provide various aids for applicants, including test guides, job coaches, and educational opportunities to train up for a particular role.

Chipotle Mexican Grill.  Chipotle Mexican Grill is committing to hiring and providing training and mentoring to over 100,000 Opportunity Youth over the next 5 years. 

CVS Health.  Building on its Pathways to Pharmacy program, which has introduced more than 1 million underserved young people to the pharmacy profession through training, internships and apprenticeship since 2006, CVS Health will launch my CVS Journey. This will be a series of STEM-enriched programs designed to inspire young people to seek a diverse set of career paths in health care, including retail pharmacy, professional management, nursing, and information technology.

Delta Air Lines.  Delta Air Lines is committed to hiring at least 100 Opportunity Youth over the next year for a range of front-line positions that require no previous experience. Delta continues to build on existing partnerships with organizations like New Hope Enterprises and Covenant House to provide Opportunity Youth with the training and skills they need to enter the workforce successfully. Delta also partner with organizations at airports like LA Hires Youth in Los Angeles to give Youth Opportunity candidates every advantage to compete in the Delta hiring process.

Dollar General.  Dollar General will enhance its partnerships with high school and workforce development centers with the goal of hiring roughly 1,000 Opportunity Youth candidates over the next year at its distribution centers and stores.  Dollar General will also continue to execute on this work by hiring on average 1,000 Opportunity Youth annually.

Enlightened.  Enlightened is committed to hiring 75 Opportunity Youth over the next 3 years and work to engage them in the Information Technology Industry. Enlightened is committed to continuing to reach out, involve, and execute strategies that will improve the onboarding of Opportunity Youth and increase retention rates. Enlightened is committed to taking steps such as expanding online training and continuing to offer mentors to create stronger career pathways for young people. 

Fairview Health Services.  Fairview will hire 200 Opportunity Youth to their first jobs over the next two years. Fairway makes this commitment in addition to its continued efforts to hire 500 16-24 year olds annually in entry-level jobs. Fairway continues to sponsor programs that allow people to work and attend school in their own communities while earning family-sustaining wages. 

Fed Ex.  FedEx will invest more than $200 million in more than 200 communities by 2020 to create opportunities and deliver positive change around the world through FedEx Cares, its new global giving platform.  One of those pillars of this strategic investment is Employment Pathways, which leverages our global reach to provide pathways to success for teens and young adults in underserved populations.

Gap, Inc.  Gap Inc. will expand its life skills and paid internship program, This Way Ahead, which gives 16-24 year olds from low-income communities training and in-store work experience. Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy will recruit five percent of all entry-level store employees from program graduates by 2025, or approximately 5,000 hires per year.  

Glassdoor, Inc.  Glassdoor will introduce a new “First Job” badge that identifies companies with formal entry-level hiring and training programs to showcase their commitments to candidates and employees on their company's Glassdoor profile.  Glassdoor will also continue to actively source candidates for entry-level roles, working with non-profits and other development groups that connect disadvantaged youth and workers with opportunity.  In addition, we will continue to work with local organizations and schools in our communities to provide mentorship, resources and training to low-income youth to help promote access, insight and experience into technical roles.

Hilton Worldwide.  Hilton is working to “open doors” for 1 million young people by 2019 by helping them to reach their full potential.  This multi-year commitment includes preparing young people for success through mentorships, apprenticeships and an innovative career awareness program, as well as by employing them directly across all divisions of the business.  Hilton will continue to expand its partnerships with non-profits, school districts, workforce development boards and others to identify, recruit and employ Opportunity Youth in the regions where it operates.

IBM.  IBM is committing to hiring early professionals from diverse populations and backgrounds. Once hired, IBM provides skills-based training and mentors to all entry level employees. IBM has also adjusted its application, screening, and interview processes to be more accessible to disadvantaged populations and work with managers to eliminate any unconscious judgment or assessment based on a background, cultural environment and experiences. IBM also provides workshops on resume building and interview practice to help diverse populations land that crucial first job.

ManpowerGroup, Inc.  ManpowerGroup is committed to partnering with organizations like Junior Achievement to build work readiness and financial literacy for children aged 4 to 18.  Through its partnership with local high schools, ManpowerGroup also provide students with structured internships, offering real work experience and contributing towards the education of each student.  ManpowerGroup’s MyPath program provides offers assessment, coaching, development and training, so young people can learn while they earn and find work in growing sectors. 

Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities.  Marriott Foundation's 25-year program, Bridges from School to Work, is committing to help businesses hire opportunity youth with disabilities. Over the next five years, Bridges will help meet the employment needs of at least 5,000 diverse urban youth with disabilities, whose unemployment rates are estimated to be 2-3 times higher than their non-disabled peers.  Bridges' staff in nine major U.S. cities make job matches that meet employer needs and align with young adults' skills and interests; this model of coaching both youth and employers has resulted in more than 16,000 first jobs since the program's inception.

Mastercard.  In 2017, Mastercard will launch a new “First Opportunity” pilot program in St. Louis, working with local community partners to identify recent high school graduates or GED recipients ages 18-24.  Intern fellows will participate in a year-long program with extensive training and the possibility to extend the fellowship for one year.  This program will provide fellows with skills that can be applied to appropriate available positions at the company and other organizations.

The McDonald’s Corporation.  McDonald's will establish a goal of hiring 20,000 Opportunity Youth by the end of 2020 at company-owned restaurants. By offering high school completion courses, college tuition assistance, and world-class training, McDonald's provides support to young people to learn on the job and learn in the classroom.  These experiences inspire confidence and foster valuable skills to help youth succeed wherever they are on their journey. 

New York Life Insurance.  New York Life Insurance is committing that Opportunity Youth will make up at least one third of all its interns over the next 3-5 years and it will convert an average of 50 percent of those Opportunity Youth to full-time employees. Interns will be paired with executive sponsors and will receive regular professional and life skills training.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company.  Pacific Gas and Electric Company.  Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is committed to providing scholarships and internships to youth throughout Northern and Central California.  PG&E will also provide training and mentoring opportunities with its employees in both operational field roles and entry-level engineering positions.  PG&E plans to begin its pilot program in June 2017 in partnership with local high schools, colleges, workforce and non-profit partners.

Small Biz 4 Youth Campaign.  Over 350 small business owners have pledged to increase access to jobs and training for Opportunity Youth through the Small Biz 4 Youth campaign, launched by Small Business Majority in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration.  These small business leaders recognize that finding ways to engage youth in the labor market is critical for their long-term viability.

Starbucks.  Building on its initial commitment to hire 10,000 Opportunity Youth by 2018 and investing in Opportunity Youth training and mentorship, Starbucks founded the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, a coalition of now more than 50 companies committed to hiring and supporting Opportunity Youth. Together these employers have already hired more than 100,000 Opportunity Youth, and invested in key communities with signature Opportunity Fairs that have set a new standard for excellence in resources and experiences for youth.

T-Mobile US.  T-Mobile will hire Opportunity Youth into retail and customer care positions nationwide.  T-Mobile is also dedicated to training young people in critical work skills that can only be learned on the job—and that will help them grow their careers and succeed in the workplace for years to come.  

Viacom, Inc.  Viacom is committed to hiring 60-80 Opportunity Youth into internships in Viacom locations across the country each year. In addition, Viacom will take steps such as expanding job preparedness training and mentorship to create even stronger career paths for Opportunity Youth.

Visa, Inc.  Visa recently launched a pilot program win the Springboard Initiative to train high school and community college students from underserved communities for high tech jobs. As part of this effort, Visa will help create a training curriculum, provide mentorship opportunities and on-site training. Upon completion of the program, the company is committed to hiring from this talent pool for roles in Visa's Technology and Operations organization.

Wal-mart Stores, Inc.  Walmart is committed to improving youth retention in the company.  To do this, Wal-Mart enhanced visibility to career pathways, expanded entry-level training, raised compensation of entry-level workers, improved front-line manager leadership development, and are testing a variety of solutions to improve the experiences of youth associates in Wal-Mart’s stores.

Xerox Services.  Xerox Services is committed to hiring high school graduates for customer service positions and will waive required work experience for eligible students who have completed the Jobs for Washington’s Graduates program in Washington State. .  Xerox will also share its program and results with a state-wide network of local Workforce Development Councils to inform policy, best practices and action.  Xerox will also expand this program to support hiring in our Xerox Services locations in seven additional cities.

Supporting Organizations

America’s Future Workforce.  America’s Future Workforce will provide career training and case management services to 100 Opportunity Youth over the next two years, and it expects to double its impact every two years after, helping hundreds of youth to gain the necessary technical proficiency and soft skills to succeed in the 21st century workforce.

CIELO.  CIELO, a nonprofit focused on helping low-moderate income individuals improve their financial stability through micro-enterprise, job skills and workforce development, is committed to hiring Opportunity Youth and assist 150 Opportunity Youth over the next two years to find new jobs or start their own companies in Orange County, California. CIELO will also track employee retention rates and the impact that meaningful employment and business ownership can have on their lives.    

Grads of Life.  Grads of Life, a national initiative to catalyze market demand for Opportunity Youth by transforming employer perceptions and business practices, will work with at least eight employers to support the implementation of their First Job commitments by providing consultative services and program design assistance. Grads of Life will also release a business case framework and partnership management tool to help employers develop a successful Opportunity Youth talent pipeline.

My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Alliance.  The MBK Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to creating pathways to success for boys and young men of color, will assist #FirstJob Compact employers in implementing 21st century hiring practices, and connect the private sector to workforce development organizations in cities across the country. In 2017, the MBK Alliance will also launch an online community to share best practices and resources.

Opportunity Youth Network.  The Opportunity Youth Network is a coalition of corporate, philanthropic, government, nonprofit and youth leaders work to reconnect America's 5.5 million disconnected youth. The Opportunity Youth Network will provide an annual report on the activities of the First Job Compact employers.