Taking the Lead: Empowering Business to Employ More Youth


New report outlines business strategies for more effective #YouthEmployment initiatives.

As we continue through commencement season, an estimated 3.3 million newly credentialed individuals are expected to graduate from high school. These high school graduates are joined by the approximately 950,000 associate’s degrees and 1.8 million bachelor’s degrees the U.S. will confer this school year. This may signify the beginning of a new journey into additional education for some; but for others, the next step for economic independence is employment.

This latter group is particularly important to the 67 percent of employers that plan to hire recent college graduates this year—the highest in nearly ten years. Yet, even with the new credentials in hand, how well were these students actually prepared for the workforce? The answer to this question varies depending on who you ask.

According to Gallup, 96 percent of chief academic officers feel institutions are “very” or at least “somewhat” effective at preparing their students. Employers feel otherwise. Only 11 percent of business executives believe institutions are “very” or “somewhat” effective at preparing the talent they need to remain competitive. Regardless of which side you’re on, the challenge remains the same—the skills mismatch will continue to produce large numbers of people without jobs and jobs without people.

The private sector need not approach this task alone. The right set of partnerships can expand the capacity for employers to engage with youth earlier to create a true pipeline of talent into employment.On the bright side, there is a renewed dedication by education providers and community-based non-profits to make deeper connections between their services and workforce outcomes for young adults.

Even more impressive, as highlighted in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s (USCCF) report Making Youth Employment Work, many businesses are viewing youth employment as not just the right thing to do, but also a smart business strategy. This is a critical piece of the movement as employers control the greatest currency in the education and workforce marketplace: jobs. However, in order to tap young talent, businesses need to play a more intentional leadership role in preparing youth that extends beyond simply serving on an advisory board.

Organizations that connect business and youth, called “intermediaries”, are well-positioned to partner with employers to help fill job needs.

However, intermediaries face three main barriers to expanding youth employment efforts:

  1. Obtaining employer buy in
  2. Making a good match
  3. Ensuring youth can add value on day one

What we need is a new approach to leveraging intermediaries to support a business’ youth employment activities.

In order to tap young talent, businesses need to play a more intentional leadership role in preparing youth that extends beyond simply serving on an advisory board.

Today, USCCF released its latest report titled “Talent Orchestrators: Scaling Youth Employment Through Business-Facing Intermediaries,” which offers a framework for how employers, through partnerships with intermediary organizations, can effectively source young talent. The paper explores the potential of traditional intermediaries to become “talent orchestrators” by pulling together the right combination of services for employers that create real career pathways for youth.

In the orchestrator role, intermediaries:

  • Identify employers as an end-customer to create shared value for employers and youth
  • Assume staffing firm responsibilities to source a talent pool of youth and young adults
  • Provide training and credentialing support for both youth and employers

This report is the latest work of USCCF’s youth employment initiative which is focused on closing the skills gap by providing customized tactics for the private sector to develop young talent as a part of its overall business strategy. We are committed to demand-driven solutions that lead to more effective youth employment efforts. Because, it is not just about the millions of degrees conferred upon graduation; it is about generating a pool of talent ready to compete in the global economy.

To learn more and view a copy of the report, please visit YouthEmploymentWorks.org.


Erica Kashiri is director of policy and programs for the USCCF's Center for Education and Workforce.