Opportunities Initiative Launches in Chicago with More than 4,000 Participants

by LP Green, II

One way to fight health disparities and obesity may be to turn off the TV. Food companies disproportionately target television advertising for unhealthy products like candy and sugary drinks to Latino and African-American youth, new research shows.

Marking an unprecedented day of action for Chicago youth, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative – the nation’s largest employer-led effort to hire at least 100,000 young Americans ages 16-24 who are out of school and work – kicked off its first-ever “Opportunity Fair & Forum” yesterday, helping create pathways for the 4,000 youth in attendance. Working with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, more than 40 community-based organizations, and nearly a dozen philanthropic foundations, more than 30 companies delivered immediate impact by interviewing and extending 600 on-the-spot job offers. The combined effort expects to hire thousands more youth in the months ahead – fueling a national effort that will impact at least 100,000 Opportunity Youth over the next three years.

“We’re at the helm of a truly historic cross-sector effort to create real, tangible economic opportunities for the young men and women of our nation – beginning right here in Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, joining coalition leaders at the launch event at Chicago’s McCormick Place on Thursday. “I am incredibly proud of the work our great city has done to kick start this much needed nationwide hiring initiative and know that our collective efforts will echo for years to come. Each of the 4,000 who joined us are proof that with the right tools and resources, this next generation of Chicagoans can make a measurable impact in our community and strengthen our City’s economy.”

Hiring managers from more than 30 companies spent yesterday meeting with candidates, including Abbott, Chipotle Mexican Grill, CVS Health, Cintas, Domino’s, FedEx, Hilton Worldwide, HMSHost, Hyatt, JCPenney, LBP Manufacturing, Lyft, Manpower, Macy’s, Mars, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Pizza Hut, Porch.com, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Prudential, Red Robin, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Sweetgreen, Taco Bell, Target, Teavana, T-Mobile, Uniqlo, Walgreens, and Walmart. Youth had an opportunity to practice their interview skills, receive on-the-spot mentoring and feedback on their resumes, complete job applications and meet with hiring managers. Between interview sessions, youth also had the opportunity to hear from a lineup of inspirational speakers at two day stages and attend professional development workshops.

“Employed teens face a better fate in life. They are more likely to enroll and graduate from college and their earning potential greatly exceeds those who did not work as teens,” said Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board. “We are very grateful to the business community and appreciate this important step by corporate America. This is a great beginning and we are proud to be a part of it.”

Several leaders from the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative participated in the event, including JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison, HMSHost CEO Steve Johnson, Nordstrom President Jamie Nordstrom, Porch.com CEO Matt Ehrlichman, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol, Rockefeller Foundation CEO Judith Rodin, MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch, Kellogg Foundation CEO La June Montgomery Tabron, Schultz Family Foundation Executive Director Daniel Pitasky, and Aspen Institute Chair Melody Barnes. Key media partners for the Opportunity Fair & Forum included CBS, Essence, and USA TODAY.

“My very first job was in retail and it played such a pivotal role in shaping my future,” said Marvin Ellison, CEO of JCPenney. “We hope to provide an opportunity for these young people to do something great with their lives and will remain dedicated to this important effort, to these youth, so long as the need exists.”

“This serves as a powerful reminder that a great first job can open up a world of opportunities for a young person,” said Howard Schultz, chairman and ceo of Starbucks and co-founder of the Schultz Family Foundation. “With nearly six million young Americans completely disconnected from the economy, we desperately need the leadership, creativity and courage of the private sector, working with civic, elected and community leaders, to create meaningful lifelong opportunities for all. I truly believe that these young men and women are not the biggest challenge facing our economy – they are our greatest opportunity.”

“I can’t tell you enough how proud we are to be a part of this coalition. We’ve hired nearly 40 youth through this first event and are committed to hiring 5,000 more in the months ahead,” said Steve Johnson, president and CEO of HMSHost.

“Youth are very important to our business with 55 percent of our employees between the ages of 16 and 24,” said Brian Niccol, CEO of Taco Bell. “This effort and events such as these are critically important and are where we find our most passionate customers who become our most passionate employees. And more over, it is our responsibility to build the communities we are operating in.”

“We are really proud to have the opportunity to represent three important growth areas at this event, spanning start-ups, technology and trades,” said Matt Ehrlichman of Porch.com. “We work with professionals across the country and are excited to help young people enter the technology sector, as well as the important trades.”

Common Hosts Inspirational Forum for Youth Featuring Usher and will.i.am

While the first half of the day was focused on the job fair, the afternoon highlighted themes of inspiration. The Inspirational Forum was hosted by Academy and Grammy Award winning performing artist and actor Common, who welcomed several special guests to the stage to share their own stories of seeking opportunity, including Usher, U.S. Army Master Sergeant Cedric King, will.i.am., and T.I., with performances by the Chicago Bulls Bucket Boys, Lil Durk and Silentó.

Coalition Looks Ahead to Planning Upcoming Opportunity Fairs & Forums

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is working with community-based organizations and civic leaders across America to help deliver the local skills training and hiring opportunities young people need, ensuring that this truly cross-sector effort is sustained in the long-term. Following the close of the Opportunity Fair & Forum in Chicago yesterday, the initiative is exploring additional cities to accelerate its nationwide hiring efforts by launching similar employer-led efforts.

For a complete list of participating companies, community service organizations, funders and participants, please visit www.100kOpportunities.org.


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