Jobs for unemployed youth? They’re hiring in Chicago

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A business consortium is pledging to hire 100,000 workers between the ages of 16 and 24 who aren’t employed and aren’t in school.

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative has a goal: “To create the nation’s largest employer-led private sector coalition focused on helping young people build skills and attain credentials, while connecting them to employment.” The plan is to make all of these hires by 2018.

The coalition is led by the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions. Its founding members are private-sector companies, funders, and youth-focused organizations. Its first event is in Chicago, whose many segregated neighborhoods are plagued with high unemployment as well as violence.

The 30 hiring companies include hotel chains, an airline, fast-food restaurant chains, department stores, and many more. These are paying jobs, not internships.

The effort is being launched at Chicago’s McCormick Place. About 4,400 Chicagoans ages 16-24 were expected to converge for the first in a national rollout.

“Prepared to offer interviews and jobs on the spot are about 30 major corporations,” says a story in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The youths — all pre-registered — have gotten skills training, professional development, resume help, and mentoring from dozens of Chicago groups that work on the coinciding issues of violence and lack of jobs for youths.

“Companies committed to hiring for full-time, entry-level jobs include Starbucks, CVS, Walgreen’s, Hilton, Hyatt, JP Morgan Chase, Prudential, Macy’s, JCPenney, Target, Wal-Mart and many more,” says the Sun-Times story. “The new employees will be paired with mentors.”

Not a weekend goes by without a report of the toll from Chicago gun violence. So far in 2015, there have been nearly 1,800 shootings. This map from the Chicago Tribune shows the preponderance of shootings in Chicago neighborhoods. This map from Chicago Magazine shows the unemployment rate in Chicago neighborhoods. Notice the overlap.

The Chicago youth unemployment rate is 27.6 percent, according to a report from the Chicago Community Jobs Plan. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pledged to bring down the violence rate with a series of anti-violence initiatives, in part “based on a 2013 University of Chicago study that found that jobs, therapy, and mentoring yielded significant reductions in youth violence,” according to the Sun-Times story. Emanuel called the 100,000 Opportunities project “the perfect combination of public-private initiative. The challenges are bigger than either one of our individual capacities.”

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, which aims to expand the program to offer jobs to its target hirees nationwide, has links on its website for both companies and youths to sign up.

Giving jobs to 4,400 unemployed youths who aren’t in school, including some with minor criminal records, won’t solve all of Chicago’s gun violence or unemployment problems. But it’s a pretty good start.

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