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ASU, partners team up to bring jobs to underemployed youth at 100,000 Opportunities Fair

A large room with many booths and signs.

December 18, 2015

It’s hard to argue with some striking numbers: There are too many young people in the Phoenix area without jobs.

Nationally, one in seven young adults does not work or attend school; however in Phoenix, and across Maricopa County, that statistic is closer to one in five — the highest rate of youth disengagement among the largest 25 cities in America. According to a study by Measure of America, unemployment in Phoenix for this age group is 20 percent, with only 55 percent enrolled in school, also the lowest of any of the 25 metro areas.

The ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy discusses the issues facing Arizona in particular in a recent white paper, "A Win-Win for Arizona Businesses: Economic Benefits of Hiring Opportunity Youth." In Phoenix alone, there are 92,000 young people in this category who are neither working nor in school, presenting a staggering challenge to the area.

ASU and its partners have teamed up to fix that.

“Phoenix is a strong indicator for the larger crisis facing our nation when it comes to engaging opportunity youth,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton in a press release. “While the statistics are sobering, our city is seeing a small but powerful groundswell of civic, community and elected leaders that are working hard to give youth in Phoenix the type of meaningful job and educational opportunities they deserve. The business leadership driving the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative will help take our city’s efforts to even greater heights and bring more attention to the magnitude of this issue and its impact on the rest of the country.”

Young adults write resumes on laptops at a long table.

A resume writing workshop was among the free guidance for young adults attending the 100,000 Opportunities Fair on

This and top photo courtesy of Starbucks

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative has the goal of forming the nation’s largest employer-led coalition committed to engaging at least 100,000 youth by 2018. In Phoenix, the initiative working with the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County, Opportunities for Youth Board, Maricopa Community College, Arizona State University, and other community-based organizations and civic leaders to help deliver the skills training and hiring opportunities young people need.

The 100,000 Opportunities Fair on Oct. 30 at the Phoenix Convention Center featured 25 local and national companies hiring opportunity youth. Approximately 500 young people received job offers as an outcome from the Phoenix fair. Even though not all received a job, the companies present are focused on building long-term relationships with the young people from the event and can reach out in the future for employment opportunities. The hope is that thousands more youth in the Phoenix area can be hired over the next 18 months.

At a similar event in Chicago in August, approximately 600 offers of employment were made at the event, and approximately 200 more job offers were made after.

Arizona State University was fully integrated into the Phoenix event. For example, 250 students volunteered to help with logistics and day-of requirements, such as helping guide the registered youth to the right booths or workshops. ASU Online and ASU Admission Services also exhibited all day, sharing about admission requirements to degree programs and discussing pathways to education with young people. Such tools as me3 were also featured to help youth explore possible career pathways.

ASU students and staff members, in close partnership with Maricopa County Community Colleges District, Phoenix Workforce Connection, and Maricopa Workforce Connection also helped with five separate workshops: resume writing, mock interviews, college success, skills to impress your boss, and education and career goal-setting. These services were provided for free, and were especially helpful for youth who had scheduled interviews during the event.

“The jobs of the future will require more education and more training. Everyone will need some sort of post-secondary education to succeed,” said Michael Crow, Arizona State University president, in the press release. “We must raise the level of learning that our young people reach, or the jobs will go unfilled, the next generation’s potential will be diminished and the economy handicapped. This initiative helps put disengaged youth back on a path where they can advance, learn skills and reach a higher level of education and training. It is an effort squarely in line with ASU’s mission to expand access to education and take responsibility for the community around us.”

At a press conference hosted by Starbucks, leadership shared personal stories of their own experiences and motivations to be a part of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative.

Alongside the fair, ASU hosted a Leaders Luncheon at the ASU Downtown Campus, inviting senior level members from local and national corporations, non-profits, government agencies, educators and other service providers to come together for a series of discussions about the challenges facing opportunity youth in Maricopa County, and nationally, and to discuss possible solutions.

Video by Jim Salisbury

President Crow and Howard Schultz, CEO & Chairman of Starbucks, welcomed more than 100 attendees, and a roundtable dialogue delved deeper into the challenges facing opportunity youth. That discussion featured Cathy Cooney of Red Robin, James Fripp of Yum! Brands, David Adame of Chicanos Por La Causa and Steve Seleznow of Arizona Community Foundation, as well as two former opportunity youth, Mona Dixon of ASU, and Philan Tree of Tribal Communications and Relations at Coconino County District 4.

ASU is committed to continuing to support the work of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative in 2016 and beyond. The next Opportunity Fair will be in Los Angeles on Feb. 11.

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative has 33 corporate sponsors: Alaska Airlines, Chipotle Mexico Grill, Cintas, CVS Health, Dominos, FedEx, Hilton Worldwide, HMSHost, Hyatt, JCPenney, JPMorgan Chase, Lyft, Macy’s, Mars, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut,, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Prudential, Red Robin, Republic Services, Starbucks, Sweetgreen, Taco Bell, Target, T-Mobile, Teavana, TOMS, VILLA, Walgreens and Walmart.

ASU had the opportunity prior to the event to interview former opportunity youth including Mona Dixon and Breanna Carpenter. Watch their stories below.

Note: This story is an updated version of one that originally ran Oct. 29.