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March 11, 2019


Opportunity youth are an untapped talent pool of 16–24-year-olds who are driven, motivated and loyal, but are neither working nor in school. They often juggle multiple responsibilities—such as the care of a child, sibling and/or elders—and because they lack access to professional networks and higher education, they are all too often overlooked by traditional hiring methods in San Diego County.

Grads of Life—a national initiative that catalyzes market demand for opportunity youth—connects employers with programs that prepare young adults and equip them to be valuable employees from day one. Their Talent Pipeline Model includes outreach and assessment, skill development, work-based experience, hiring and retention. It’s a win-win—young adults receive the mentoring they need for workplace success, while employers build a talent pipeline that suits their hiring needs.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership partners with Grads of Life through OpportunitySD, which aims to reconnect and prevent disconnection for the estimated 10,800 opportunity youth in San Diego County. We sat down with Grads of Life’s Director of Marketing and Communications Toi Eshun to hear what she had to say about opportunity youth and the power of partnership.

How does our partnership help tackle youth disconnection in San Diego County?

0412189200153Like Grads of Life, the Workforce Partnership understands the importance of empowering young adults with access to quality employment pathways and a W-2 that grows over time. Our partnership kicked off at last year’s Opportunity Summit where we introduced young adults to 7-Second Resumes, an innovative professional branding tool that allows opportunity youth to share life experiences that translate into business value for employers looking to build a 21st-century workforce.

This year we are continuing to build our partnership while shifting our focus to the employer side of the talent market place. At Opportunity Summit 2019, we aim to provide employers a better understanding of the bottom line benefits of implementing innovative hiring processes that are inclusive of opportunity youth populations. These benefits include increased recruiting efficiency, streamlined onboarding and training and increased employee retention rates to name a few.

Why focus on engaging employers?

Toi Eshun Headshot 1

Employer engagement is critical in recruiting, hiring, developing and retaining opportunity youth because engagement, in general, is intentional. Opportunity youth who feel supported and valued for their contributions are more loyal and experience higher levels of job satisfaction. Employers who build employee engagement into their workplace culture are designing for success.

What can employers in San Diego County do to invest in opportunity youth?

Employers in San Diego County who are looking to expand their talent pipelines to be more inclusive of opportunity youth should start by evaluating their current hiring practices. Often traditional screening practices eliminate candidates who are qualified, motivated and ready to work. Degree inflation is one example of how qualified candidates may be screened out of opportunities for roles that in reality only require training. Employers who have entry-level roles to fill should consider removing degree requirements to expand their talent pipeline and increase access to job opportunities.

“Working with a mission-aligned organization such as Grads of Life in our OpportunitySD initiative has been a great experience so far,” says Eric Morrison-Smith, Partnerships and Events Specialist at the Workforce Partnership. “Their expertise on transforming employer perceptions and hiring practices will help us build intentional relationships with employers and create pathways to employment for opportunity youth across the region.”

The 3rd annual Opportunity Summit is happening Thursday, May 2, 2019! Register to join 800 local and national changemakers as we continue the OpportunitySD movement of young people and allies working to increase opportunity and decrease poverty in San Diego County.

Are you an employer looking to make a difference in the lives of opportunity youth? Get started with the resources you need or contact to see how we can collaborate.

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