Data Supports Corporate Voices’ Ongoing Efforts to Strengthen America’s Businesses and Job-Seeking Young Adults Through Smarter Workforce Training Investments

Last week, Demos, a New York-based  non-partisan public policy research and advocacyImage organization, released its report, Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Jobs Crisis, highlighting the current youth employment crisis in the United States and examining how the struggles and experiences of young adults in 2012 will impact the future of the U.S. workforce.

Through analysis of Department of Labor statistics, Demos found there are currently 5.6 million 18 to 34-year-olds who are both willing and able to take a job and actively looking for work, but are shut out of opportunities for employment. This is particularly difficult for young adults without a high school diploma, as 19.7 percent of 18 to 24-year-old high school graduates with no college experience are unemployed while 1 in 3 are underemployed. Additionally, Demos found that the young adult workforce would need 4.1 million new jobs to return to pre-recession levels, and at the rate of job growth after the Great Recession, the country will not recover to full employment levels until 2022. In short, the outlook does not look good for young adults looking for work now and in the immediate future.

This crisis has had a drastic effect on the business community as well. The Manpower Group’s 2012 Talent Shortage Survey found that there are 3.4 million job vacancies left unfilled as employers have reported difficulty in finding the skilled workers they need to fill positions. This disconnect between companies looking for skilled and motivated talent and ambitious young people looking for work weighs on our economic recovery and on our long-term strength as a nation. America needs to harness and engage all of its human capital to compete globally. Smart investment in youth training and human capital development is just that—an investment in being smarter about how businesses and individuals all lean into the future.

As Congress seeks proven returns on public investments, looking to new models of transparent and accountable public private partnership provides the vision for success. These new pathway models demonstrate what can be done to update and reinvigorate the nation’s workforce training system, building on the foundation to meet current realities and future opportunities.

For several years, Corporate Voices for Working Families has been at the forefront of analyzing the business impact of increased investment in employment pathway programs for young adults. Businesses across the country have collaborated with local partners and public programs to meet their talent development goals by developing employment pathway opportunities for untapped talent – a population of 6.7 million opportunity youth.

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation under its New Options Project, Corporate ImageVoices has identified and spotlighted businesses that make significant contributions to employment pathways that provide career training to low-income young adults.

Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Jobs Crisis serves as further evidence that business and public partners need to work together to invest in employment pathway programs for opportunity youth to secure a talented and stable workforce that businesses need today and in the future.

Corporate Voices’ series of micro-business cases is available here.

The Demos report Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Jobs Crisis is available here.

Founded in 2001, Corporate Voices for Working Families is the leading national business membership organization shaping conversations and collaborations on public and corporate policy issues involving working families. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, we create and advance innovative policy solutions that reflect a commonality of interests among the private sector both global and domestic, government and other stakeholders.

We are a unique voice, and we provide leading and best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families, while strengthening our nation’s economy and enhancing the vitality of our communities.


While many young Americans describe the receipt of a high school diploma as a moment in which all their hard work and commitment has finally ‘paid off’, their slightly older peers will be there to remind them that this ‘paid’ feeling is not to last.

Recently, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University surveyed 544 high school graduates who are not enrolled full time in college. Fully 73 percent of these young Americans feel that a college degree is a necessary step in securing a successful future, only half said they will enroll in college in the near future.

It is assumed that those who do not go on to pursue a college education will try their luck in the workforce. Yet the survey noted that only 37 percent of people who graduated between 2006 and 2008 currently have a full-time job. Of those who graduated only a few years later in what the study dubbed the ‘recession era’ (2009-2011), a mere 16 percent had found full-time employment. Another 22 percent were working part time, but most wanted full-time work.

The main reason given by those who did not seek a college education was economics. In fact, 80 percent of respondents cited an economic barrier to going to college full time. Whether it is due to the high tuition, the need to work to support themselves, or the responsibility of caring for family, many who desire college simply cannot afford it.

The Rutgers survey noted that many chose to enter the workforce instead of going to college because most of their parents had done the same. However, only one in ten surveyed felt that they were “extremely well prepared by their high school to succeed in their job after graduation”. Furthermore, less than half of high school graduates without a college education thought that they would have more financial success than their parents.

In a sobering outlook on their future, barely half of the youth surveyed believed they would find a job that could be considered the start of their career within the “next few years”. Similarly, close to the same percent believed that if this job were to be found, it would come without health insurance.

As a result of the formidable unemployment concern in a nation considered the richest in the world, less than half of 18-24 year old high school graduates not enrolled full time in college believe that the near future holds for them a job that would allow them “to lead a comfortable life.”

At Corporate Voices for Working Families, much of our work is focused on identifying and promoting employer-driven solutions to the challenges facing young adults like those surveyed here.  Our own research on this population is summarized in our 2011 report, A Profile of Young Workers (16-26) in Low-Income Families. The study highlighted the financial and educational shortcomings associated with employees from low-income families, and contrasts their experience with that of their peers from higher-income households.

Similarly, our work with the New Options Project, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, aims to align the hiring needs of employers with new sources of untapped talent—including young people lacking a high school diploma, but eager to find meaningful career opportunities that match their skills. Recently, the New Options Project launched a micro-site called Connecting Youth and Business to aid employers in creating employment and educational opportunities for underserved or “opportunity” youth. And our Learn & Earn initiative and related work around postsecondary completion, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, seeks to encourage innovative partnerships between employers, community colleges and higher education institutions to help today’s “working learners”—often low-income young adults—complete their education while holding down a job.  By advancing policy solutions like these, we are working with progressive business leaders to improve the lives of too many young people who have been left behind in today’s challenging labor market.

This post was contributed by Stephen M. Wing, President of Corporate Voices for Working Families.

Sparking an economic revival and creating new jobs has no higher national priority. Yet as a national business membership organization representing companies who employ millions of Americans, Corporate Voices for Working Families grapples with a related and urgent imperative: A widespread “skills gap,” which leaves many employers struggling to fill job openings even as millions of Americans search for work. We regard this skills gap as one of the most pressing issues facing business competitiveness and the economic security of working families today.

In Across the Great Divide, a report Corporate Voices published this year in partnership with Civic Enterprises and others, 53 percent of business leaders surveyed said their companies face a “very or fairly major” challenge recruiting employees with the skills, education and training their business needs. Those at smaller companies, who were responsible for more than half of new jobs created in recent years, felt the skills gap most acutely: Fully 67 percent said it was difficult to find and hire the right employees.

In our view, addressing this crisis—the skills gap that limits the opportunities and dreams of too many Americans—is a necessary condition of success within a much needed economic revival.

We know America’s greatest resource has always been the talent of its people and the innovation of its businesses.  That’s why we are proud to be part of Opportunity Nation, an unprecedented broad-based non-partisan coalition of public, private, civilian and military organizations creating and advocating for better skills, better jobs and better communities.

We believe that only by including employers as true partners and utilizing their expertise can we meet Opportunity Nation’s campaign goals of promoting opportunity, social mobility and the American dream.  Businesses know best the skills needed in employees and are the importance lynchpin in the creation of enterprising pathways that connect, cultivate and sustain previously untapped talent, or disconnected youth, with the skills needed to succeed on the job.

Corporate Voices’ partner in the New Options Project – a multi-year initiative that seeks to connect more than four million young adults with no high school diploma to meaningful career opportunities that match their talents and skills – Year Up is assembling a panel at the upcoming Opportunity Nation Summit being held in New York City November 3-4.  The panel will highlight the community and education partnerships and business best practices that are working to connect the needs of employers with the skills development of the nation’s workforce. The panel entitled, “Opening Pathways to Prosperity: Expanding Options for Job Training and Success” will include the following innovative and inspiring individuals:

  • Rana Foroohar – Assistant Managing Editor for TIME Magazine (Moderator)
  • Gerald Chertavian – Founder and CEO of Year Up
  • John Galante – Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at JPMorgan Chase
  • Mike Jennings – Director of IT, LinkedIN
  • Jane Oates – Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration at U.S. Department of Labor
  • Dorothy Stoneman – Founder and President of YouthBuild USA
  • Stuart Thorne – President and CEO of Southwire
  • Kern Williams – Year Up Boston Alumni, Working at State Street Bank

By highlighting the community and education partnerships and business best practices that are working to connect the needs of employers with the skills development of the nation’s workforce, these business leaders and young adults will share their thoughts on how such programs, if adopted on a larger scale, could bridge the nation’s growing skills gap.

Corporate Voices for Working Families is the leading national business membership organization shaping conversations and collaborations on public and corporate policy issues involving working families.  A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, we create and advance innovative policy solutions that reflect a commonality of interests among the private sector both global and domestic, government and other stakeholders.  We are a unique voice, and we provide leading and best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families while strengthening our nation’s economy and enhancing the vitality of our communities.  For more information, please visit

Although we are experiencing high unemployment and joblessness, employers continue to have trouble finding skilled and educated employees. In order to close this education and skills gap, Congress must take a hard look at the education policies that shape the nation’s talent pool and determine the economic future of all its citizens.

Bringing attention to these issues and the newest ideas and trends in education reform, NBC News hosted its second annual Education Nation Summit last week in New York City, where parents, educators and students met with leaders in politics, business and technology to explore the challenges and opportunities in education today. Over the past year, NBC News has been committed to engaging policymakers and the public through continued coverage on the state of education. The event addressed the developments, challenges and progress of the past year, and identified and explored new, exciting opportunities to reinvent America as an Education Nation.

As part of a special Education Nation feature, on Thursday, September 29 Angela Cobb, leader of the New Options Project and Director of Return On Inspiration Labs, spoke with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell about how the New Options Project is working to connect out-of-school young adults ages 16-24 with meaningful career opportunities through the introduction of innovative tools and approaches.

“Education and training is a really important component for young adults who have become disconnected from the traditional education system and from work.  The first step for many young adults is connecting them to employment, so that they can…start to identify career paths and career options.  There is then greater context for their education, so it then makes more sense for them to go get their GED or high school diploma, get technical training or begin pursuing coursework at a community college or four-year college.”

Corporate Voices is a partner in the New Options Project, a multi-year initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, that seeks to connect more than four million young adults with no high school diploma to meaningful career opportunities that match their talents and skills. New Options works to connect employer talent needs with new sources of previously undeveloped talent. Local work zones are used to create and test innovative products and market-based approaches that provide pathways to employment, which are supported by national initiatives and movement building to influence perceptions.

Through its work with the New Options Project, Corporate Voices is committed to identifying and spotlighting businesses that make significant contributions to enterprising pathways. Recently AOL, Accenture, Bank of America, CVS Caremark, Expeditors, H.E.B. and Southwire were highlighted in a series of micro-business case studies published by Corporate Voices for their commitment to providing career training to low-income young adults.

An equally innovative and exciting partnership is between Corporate Voices’ corporate partner IBM and its innovative Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program, a joint effort with the City University of New York and the city’s Department of Education. P-TECH enables students to begin their college and professional lives more quickly and with more support than the typical school-to-work pathway. Graduates of P-TECH have the opportunity to earn an associate degree and leave the school with the skills and knowledge they need in order to continue their studies or step seamlessly into competitive jobs in the information technology (IT) industry.

The new school has even caught the attention of President Obama, who spotlighted it this week in remarks about education reform. It was also featured at the COMMIT! Forum in New York City, alongside Southwire’s flagship training program 12 for Life.

As policymakers wrestle with the task of reducing our nation’s deficit and at the same time creating an atmosphere that will promote job creation, they must not lose sight of the impact that education outcomes have on the vitality of the nation’s workforce.  The work with the New Options Project and these best practice employers show that Congress must align education policies with the talent needs of employers to help close the skills gap, to connect talent with employment and to encourage business to create economic growth and upward mobility through on-the-job training and ongoing human capital development.   Efforts like these will go a long way toward strengthening our future economic competitiveness. More specifically, Corporate Voices and its partners in the New Options Project ask Congress to make workforce needs central and to shape desired education outcomes by following these key principles:

  • Ensure complete skills development, including both academic and workforce skills.
  • Utilize contextualized and work-based learning.
  • Dramatically raise high school graduation rates.
  • Focus on the lowest-performing schools and hold them accountable.
  • Develop Enterprising Pathways
  • Promote post-secondary completion, not just enrollment.

Corporate Voices encourages you to visit its website to learn more about the New Options Project and the work other companies are doing to connect their own needs with the skills development of previously untapped talent.

By Tony Hurst, Program Associate, Corporate Voices for Working Families

In a recent blog, Nicole Yohalem, of the Forum for Youth Investment, described the Gateway to College program at Portland Community College which helps youth who have dropped out of high school earn a diploma and college credit concurrently. Gateway to College acknowledges that only two-thirds of high school students graduate, while only 20 percent of those who enter two-year institutions complete their degree within three years.

At Corporate Voices for Working Families, for example, we are working hard to address this national challenge and others related to the inadequate preparation of young adults to excel in the 21st century economy.  With support from the New Options Project from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we are helping to engage the business community to identify and support alternative pathways to education and employment for disconnected young adults.

Gateway to College pairs 16-to-21 year olds with a mentor to guide them through the rigors of classroom expectations and study habits, through to college placement exams and career choices. The program began in 2000 and with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has been replicated across the United States.

In a parallel effort, Corporate Voices, with the Forum for Youth Investment, is part of the Ready by 21® partnership, which works to prepare youth for college, work and life.  And with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Corporate Voices is continuing to bring the business perspective to the nation’s agenda for postsecondary completion—a critical prerequisite to ensuring a skilled talent pool for a competitive future.

To help employers learn about and share their best practices with each other, we have highlighted several companies in Learn and Earn Micro-Business Case Studies that are working with partners in the educational system to help future and current workers earn a wage while gaining a postsecondary credential.

One example is Georgia Power, which has reached out and partnered with local high schools to offer paid internships so that young people gain the necessary workplace skills. All graduates are eligible for full-time employment at Georgia Power and are much more prepared to enter college. The program has been so successful that its implementation has already begun in Ohio, North Carolina and Washington.

Additionally, UPS partnered with community members in Louisville, Kentucky, to create Metropolitan College in order to reduce their turnover rate that was as high as 70 percent in the late 1990s.  Metropolitan College provides employees an opportunity to earn college credit while still working. The results have been incredible, as turnover rates are now below 20 percent and many of these graduates have worked their way through various career pathways into a mixture of divisions within the company.

And finally, in a recently published report, From an “Ill-Prepared” to a Well Prepared Workforce, Corporate Voices acknowledges that there is a growing education and skills gap perpetuated by students leaving the education systems without the skills they need to succeed.

Through Corporate Voices’ Learn and Earn initiative we work to highlight a variety of ways in which business and community college leaders can partner and work together to prepare the current and future workforce. Business and education must come together to begin a dialogue and examine best practices to ensure that young adults will have the proper skills to succeed in the 21st century job setting.

Both of these best-practice cases highlight companies that are initiating community partnerships to ensure they have a more skilled workforce.  Like Gateway to College, these companies value the importance of aiding their employees in furthering their post-secondary credentials and helping them to ensure they have the skills they need to succeed at work.  If you have a potential Learn and Earn case study, please contact Corporate Voices.