September 28, 2017

Fulfilling the Promise of Youth Employment Programs and Business Partnerships for a Growing Economy

Written by Chauncy Lennon, Global Head of Workforce Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Today’s generation of young people is the largest the world has ever seen. One billion more young adults will begin looking for employment over the next decade.[i] While many of the world’s major economies have stabilized their footing and unemployment rates have dropped since the Great Recession, the benefits of the recovery have not been broadly shared. One third of the world’s young people are not engaged in employment, education, or training.[ii] Globally, youth unemployment rates are about three times higher than the rates for adults.[iii] Young people need education, training, and work experiences beyond high school to find well-paying jobs that provide opportunities for economic mobility. Preparing this generation of youth to enter a labor market that is evolving, with employers seeking more skilled workers, will require collaboration between civic leaders, policymakers, employers, educators and training organizations to identify and support long-term solutions.

The combination of a tightening labor market and persistently high youth unemployment presents a uniquely opportune moment to expand the private sector’s role in tackling youth unemployment to strengthen the global workforce pipeline. Employers are taking a second look at the youth workforce and the private sector has increased its commitment to supporting workforce systems over the past few years, contributing to fostering innovative strategies that bridge diverse stakeholders from the education, workforce, and youth development fields. Some of these strategies are promising and have demonstrated real results. For instance, some youth employment programs have been shown to increase a young person’s salary by 11 percent for up to eight years after high school.[iv] These initiatives are especially critical in helping to close the access divide between low-income youth and their higher-income peers with respect to acquiring professional connections and networks.

These programs benefit more than just youth. Supporting best-in-class youth employment programs, high-quality skills training, and effective career pathways can help employers improve recruitment pipelines and increase access to new talent. A talented, diverse workforce can also benefit businesses by bringing new perspectives, ideas, and connections to growing communities.[v] When administered effectively, youth workforce programs give employees an opportunity to participate in meaningful activities that increase their connection to the mission and values of the company. These programs can provide businesses with opportunities to give back to the communities where they operate. Simply put, helping young people gain the skills they need to compete in the labor market is a powerful strategy for expanding access to opportunity and promoting economic growth.

On September 28th, JPMorgan Chase is releasing a new report on how businesses can contribute to expanding opportunity for youth by engaging in employment initiatives around the world. The report, Untapped Talent: Fulfilling the Promise of Youth Employment Programs for a Growing Economy, builds on the firm’s more than $325 million global investment in workforce development by providing a road map for businesses interested in doing more to equip young people with skills and experiences that will put them on a path to greater economic mobility. Drawing from interviews with practitioners, business leaders, and experts, as well as previous research, this report explores the spectrum of business engagement in the youth employment field and is intended to serve as a resource for program practitioners, business leaders, policymakers, philanthropists, and other stakeholders in the field. The economic challenges we face are complex but solvable. Through effective collaboration across sectors to increase exposure and contact between employers and youth, communities can begin setting the building blocks to meet long-term workforce needs and to ensure economic vitality for the generations to come.