December 14, 2016

Youth Unemployment: Confronting The Elephant in the Room

In the United States, a number of well-known companies have developed innovative approaches to fill entry-level positions with unemployed young people. This Rotman School of Management magazine article shares their approaches, providing models from which others can learn. 

By: Willa Seldon, Brian Bills

Executive Summary

The global youth unemployment rate worsened in 2016, reaching 13.1 percent, just shy of the 20-year peak in 2013. In raw numbers, 71 million young people can’t find work.

Large numbers of unemployed young people can have serious consequences for a country’s economic security and political stability. Lowering youth unemployment and improving access to stable job opportunities is a policy goal for developing and developed countries alike.

In the United States, where unemployment has fallen from a Great Recession high of 10 percent in October 2009 to 4.6 percent more recently, the youth unemployment rate remains more than twice the overall rate. Yet, employers struggle to fill entry-level positions.

The solution for this worker shortage is hidden in plain sight: some 5.5 million 16- to-24-year-olds who are both out of work and out of school present employers with a huge pool of untapped talent. But preparing them for successful work experiences will take innovative forms of collaboration between employers, nonprofits, and government.

A recent Bridgespan Group study found a number of global corporations that have embarked on this mission in the United States, including State Street Corporation, Starbucks, CVS Health, Walmart, and JPMorgan Chase. The corporations are working with nonprofit intermediaries, which prepare and recruit low-income and first-generation students for college and careers, to fill entry-level positions. They also are creating youth-friendly employment policies, such as screening candidates in for competencies rather than out for credentials and mentoring on the job.

In return, corporations that have taken these steps have reaped benefits, including a reduction in new-hire turnover. Perhaps more important, they are building talent pipelines from which to fill future positions and nurturing individual careers.  

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