Young people searching for work can often get stuck because they lack a powerful network of adults to advise them and connect them with ideas and opportunities. A major new national campaign that launched this week aims to help young people make those connections.
Led by the America’s Promise Alliance, which long has focused on high school graduation issues, the “YES Project"—short for Young, Employed and Successful—brings together more than 450 organizations across the country that work in education, business, philanthropy, and youth development. The idea is that they’d all contribute to a brain trust to help young adults develop the skills, connections, and support to find—and succeed in—jobs.
The aim of the initiative is to land jobs for at least 95 percent of young people ages 16 to 24 who are actively seeking work by the year 2030.
“For full employment to happen, it has to be a collective effort across all sectors,” said Nathaniel Cole, who is leading the YES Project for America’s Promise Alliance.
The campaign rests on a three-part idea: In order to succeed, young people need to be ready, connected, and supported. The moving parts of the initiative fall into those three areas, although some are more fully developed than others at this early stage.
LinkedIn will play a key role by supplying a platform on which adults can express interest in helping young people who are looking for work. It’s already running a #PlusOnePledge program, which encourages adults to help other adults outside their own networks. But for the new campaign, LinkedIn has added a #PledgeYES program, which will encourage adults to raise their hands in cyberspace to volunteer to help a young person.
That help could be something simple, like offering introductions to potential job connections, or it could be a little more involved: making yourself available to help young people draft resumes or cover letters, or offering ongoing mentoring.
To get involved, people who have LinkedIn profiles post a comment with #PledgeYES. LinkedIn then conveys that information to the YES Project. That, in turn, triggers a reach-out email that offers the volunteer some concrete steps they can take to contact organizations in their community—the YES Project’s national partners—that are helping young people with services like job training or internship placement, Cole said.
“There are lots of ways to support young people, and they don’t all involve being a mentor, or meeting one-on-one,” said Cole. “If you just simply open up your network and make connections, it will enhance the network of a young person. Sometimes that quick touch is good enough, and equally important.”
The YES Project’s own website will also facilitate those kinds of connections between adults and young people. When they sign up, adults will get an email from the initiative listing a half-dozen ways they can help, and organizations in their region they can contact to find ways to support young adults in building their work skills, finding a job, and thriving once they’re employed. The campaign will check in from time to time to see how volunteers are doing, and if they’ve made the connections they need to help younger people, Cole said.
Another part of the initiative focuses on learning lessons from four communities that are doing good work with young people who aren’t in school or working. They’ve given grants to these projects to support their work and learn more about it, so they can translate those lessons into expanded opportunities for young people. Those projects—part of the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Forum—are the Ancestral Lands Hopi Program on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona; Capital Workforce Partners in Hartford, Conn.; Thrive Chicago, and Austin’s Opportunity Youth Collaborative in Texas.
A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.