In 2015, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative launched as a partnership between the Aspen Forum, FSG, Schultz Family Foundation, Starbucks, Walmart, and the Kellogg and Rockefeller foundations, among others. The Initiative has rapidly become the largest employer-led, opportunity youth-focused coalition in the country. The partnership of more than 50 U.S.-based companies with national leaders, innovators and foundations seeks to create more pathways to economic prosperity for vulnerable youth and connect employers to this underutilized talent pipeline.

The Demonstration Cities component within this employer-led coalition is unique because it seeks to develop a coordinated approach to engaging the “demand” side in creating employer-led career pathway prototypes that have high potential for scaling and replication. The 100,000 Opportunities Demonstration Cities effort represents a comprehensive systems alignment strategy to create and scale this work in Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix and Seattle.

The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions is working to leverage the exciting momentum in these communities by supporting backbone organizations in each to work collectively, across sectors – and in partnership with employers — to create or expand pathways young workers need to build skills, attain credentials, and ultimately advance in their careers. They and their collaborative partner organizations participate in a national learning community managed by the Aspen Forum. The Aspen Forum, in partnership with Jobs for Futures also supports the collaborative efforts with technical assistance.

Over the next 3+ years, the 100K Demonstration Cities effort will:

  • Develop and support talent pipelines of tens of thousands of opportunity youth leading to hiring, retention and advancement
  • Create new models of urban employer/workforce/education partnerships
  • Develop scalable 100K employer-connected pathways for employment, training, education, upskilling and retention of former opportunity youth

The Aspen Forum provides three-year funding to each backbone organization (see list here) to support a fulltime project coordinator, technical assistance and participation in a national learning community. This coordinator, supported by existing backbone staff, coordinates a local cross sector collaborative to set and work to achieve goals for reconnecting opportunity youth to employment. To date, some of these backbones have also received additional funding from other sources to support data collection, communications and hiring events.

Companies engaged in the 100K Initiative corporate coalition help to launch careers for young people who are just entering the workforce. They also develop the potential of youth who have some work experience but are looking to gain new skills that will lead to a successful career. These companies have joined together and are committed to the belief that, with the right skills and training, opportunity youth represent an unrealized pipeline of talent and an economic engine that can be ignited. To date, more than 50 major corporations have joined the 100K Initiative corporate coalition led by founding companies such as Alaska Airlines, Cintas, CVS Health, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt, JC Penney, JP Morgan Chase, Lyft, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Porch, Potbelly Sandwich Shops, Starbucks, Walgreens and Walmart.

Through this initiative, employers have access to learning and exchange of best practices around strategies to successfully hire, train, and advance opportunity youth and will have stronger connections to the pathways that prepare opportunity youth for employment. FSG, the nonprofit consulting firm that managed the 100K Corporate Coalition in its start-up phase, will lead a learning community in 2017, called Impact Hiring Innovation Labs with a subset of employers who are committed to changing hiring and human resource policies. The Aspen Forum and FSG will continue to bring these learning communities together to bridge supply and demand, exchange best practices, and facilitate deepened connections in the Demonstration Cities.

Pathways to Careers Fund

In 2017, the Aspen Forum is deepening its investment in the Demonstration Cities through a new Pathways to Careers Fund, a collaborative effort, led and managed by our 100K Demonstrations team. In order for the backbone organizations to effectively align employer demand and career pathways with the supply of trained opportunity youth – it is necessary to pilot and test employer-connected pathways at the local level. There is a need to support public/private innovation with multiple systems, including workforce and postsecondary – in addition to other systems – to create effective pathways for opportunity youth. The Pathways to Careers Fund will make resources available in the 100K Demonstration Cities to support the development and documentation of accelerated pathways that support training, education, and the transition to employment, as well as retention and ongoing career growth and learning for opportunity youth.

Some examples of the kinds of projects that might be funded include:

  • A workforce training organization partners with two employers that agree to interview all youth who successfully complete the training, and a mentoring organization, that will provide on-going career navigation and support to all the youth for a year following the completion of the training, with the expectation that retention of OY will increase by 25%.
  • An existing program that scales to prepare additional opportunity youth for employment in growth sectors.
  • An existing training program that currently has an employer partnership innovates with elements of the program design to improve concurrent education outcomes for vulnerable sub-populations, such as young men of color. The existing program has the data capacity to examine sub-population outcome data.
  • A program that has existing employer partners that wants to scale (either through new partners or to additional locations of current partners) but needs to capture the essential program elements, and evaluate effectiveness; and will create a guide to support scaling and expansion.

For more information, please contact:

Mariko Lockhart, National Coordinator, 100,000 Opportunities Demonstration Cities at mariko.lockhart@aspeninstitute.org