Grads of Life is a national initiative that seeks to catalyze market demand for young adults with atypical resumes by transforming employer perceptions and hiring practices.
Today in the United States, an opportunity divide exists between the nearly 6 million opportunity youth – young adults ages 16-24 who are out of school and out of work – and the more than 4 million vacant positions companies are struggling to fill. This divide has serious financial implications for our young adults, employers, and economy, and yet, these young adults lack access to the educational and professional opportunities they need to become economically self-sufficient. While these young adults frequently lack workplace skills and the networks required to secure jobs with career advancement opportunities, they have the potential to become valuable and loyal employees.
Grads of Life seeks to educate and empower employers with the tools to use opportunity youth pipeline strategies as a core part of their business strategy to meet their essential talent needs. By helping employers establish partnerships with local organizations to find and train opportunity youth, we can improve economic outcomes for this population, repair the broken marketplace, and help to close the opportunity divide.
When Grads of Life launched in September 2014, we set the bold goal of transforming the way that American employers think about talent in a currently broken marketplace. We know that opportunity youth will only have access to meaningful careers if the private sector is engaged and companies see opportunity youth as a viable solution for their talent needs.
Our campaign's innovative strategy focuses on the demand side of the talent marketplace to catalyze an employer-led movement to create pathways to employment for opportunity youth nationwide. We achieve this through an integrated strategy that includes a national multi-media (TV, radio, and print PSA) campaign designed to shift employer perceptions. The goal of the PSA is to help employers see opportunity youth as economic assets rather than social liabilities and drive them to GradsofLife.org where they can begin to take action.
Our second component, GradsofLife.org, is designed to change employers' hiring practices to include young adults with atypical resumes. This digital platform provides employers with the information, tools, and partners they need to turn their inspiration into action. By leveraging our technology platform to educate businesses about this population and documenting best practices for creating talent pipelines, we shift the way that employers meet their talent needs. These efforts are further supported by robust Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn campaigns to extend the reach of Grads of Life and inspire more employers to join the movement.
Grads of Life innovated the field of employer demand to close the opportunity divide precisely because solutions focused on the supply side (young adults themselves) have failed to scale. Scale requires that other market players see value in creating opportunity youth talent pipelines. To that end, the Grads of Life strategy relies on developing and engaging a market where others will see and share the business value of talent strategies that include opportunity youth. When Grads of Life successfully creates widespread change in employer hiring practices, young adults nationwide will have access to numerous career pathways that provide a living wage and growth opportunities.
Grads of Life has proven that advertising can generate demand for opportunity youth. In less than two years, Grads of Life has leveraged a $1.7 million investment into more than $60 million of donated media. A post-tracking survey of hiring decision makers suggests that employers who see the PSA change their perceptions and are motivated to take action. 79% of people who were aware of Grads of Life discussed alternative hiring practices with coworkers, versus only 59% of people who were not aware of the campaign. Similarly, 64% of hiring decision makers who were familiar with Grads of Life reported visiting a website to learn more about how to hire and train from nontraditional talent pools, versus just 12% of those who were not familiar with the campaign.
Employers are responding to the campaign and taking action. Through our interactions with employers who visit GradsofLife.org (which has attracted close to 600,000 visitors) and our partnerships with business associations, we know that there is a strong appetite for building talent pipelines. Resources like the Tools to Act pages (visited 57,000 times), or the Partner Directory (searched nearly 42,000 times), are valuable, but many employers need additional support. So over the past year we have further supported employers by consulting individually with them to identify a pipeline strategy and provider partners. This R&D helps us understand the most scalable intervention we can provide to support employers, and informs our goal of codifying and sharing that knowledge with the employer community.
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