Over five million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed in the United States. There are 3.5 million jobs in the US that don’t require a four-year degree. The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative looks to bridge this gap by matching the youth with these companies, creating gainful employment. The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative was launched in Chicago with the first of its kind Opportunity Fair and Forum. Over 3,000 youth were assisted throughout the day. Fortunately, 29 companies were onsite interviewing youth; over 40 community organizations were also onsite supporting and engaging with the youth.
Oscar and Grammy award winner Che “Rhymefest” Smith was onsite representing Donda’s House and providing motivation to those in attendance. When asked about the value of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative and how we should move forward with our youth, he said. “We have young people that have a lot of questions without enough correct information and it’s important to be here not as an entertainer but as a source of information. I’m grateful that the initiative is here not only to provide jobs, but education, information and access. Access is one of the biggest things that we lack as a community. A young person should come out of this opportunity with a job, an understanding and a direction.”
Kwantina White was one of the 3,000 youth in attendance. We asked what her feelings were about the initiative and if she had any job offers on the horizon. “I feel like this event was very useful if you needed help finding a job. If you needed help with an opportunity this was a good event. I talked to numerous companies, Potbelly’s, Taco Bell, Walmart and Pizza Hut. I have a second interview with Taco Bell coming up and Im excited about it,” she said.
Companies like LinkedIn assisted participants with updating and creating resumes. Starbucks had a pop up cafe showing the youth how to be baristas. Starbucks, The Schultz Foundation and YouthBuild USA have also launched the Customer Service Excellence Training (CSET) program, which gives students the opportunity to learn customer service skills based on the same training Starbucks store partners (employees) receive through classroom and on-the-job-experience in retail or cafe settings. The basis of the 100,000 Opportunity Initiative was based off this Starbucks model.
The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, working with LeadersUp, served as an aggregator and intermediary for the initial event. This is an employer-led initiative that will leverage The Aspen Community Forum for Community Solutions. The Aspen Community Forum’s mission is to support community collaboration – including collective impact – that enables communities to effectively address their most pressing challenges.
Grammy and Oscar Award Winner Common hosted the Opportunity Forum that consisted of motivational speeches from the likes of Usher, Will I Am and TI. When asked about this amazing opportunity being afforded to the youth and his involvement, Common said, “I believe in the talent that lies within our young people and I know that when we give them a real chance, they will achieve and soar. I am excited to be a part of bringing jobs and opportunities to our great city.”
We also spoke to Kelsey Riley who was managing the Donda’s House, Inc. booth and this is what she had to say about the initiative: “It was an amazing experience to interact with so many youth around the city and share with them what Donda’s House has to offer and also to see how excited the youth were to be there and have access to so many different companies and learn so much more about themselves.”
Silento closed the event with his hit song “Watch Me (Whip Nae/Nae).” Spirits were high and motivated.
Over 600 youth were hired on the spot. This is an exciting time for our youth and hopefully as this initiative travels the United States more will be created.
To learn more about the 100,000 Opportunity Initiative, visit the link http://www.100kopportunities.org/about-the-initiative/