Op-Ed: How Helping Youth Helps Phoenix Community

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, ASU President Dr. Michael Crow, and Starbucks chairman and ceo Howard Schultz make a case for supporting opportunity youth in this Op-Ed for The Arizona Republic, published online October 29, 2015.

Throughout the Phoenix area, we have vacant jobs and available seats in our community college and university classrooms. We also have a group of young people ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor have a job.

It’s time to connect the two.

One in five youths in that age group in Maricopa County are not working and are not attending school. The rate of disengagement is higher among Hispanics, African Americans and American Indians. Overall, this is the highest rate of youth disengagement in the 25 largest cities in America.

It is a distinction we plan to erase.

History and statistics tell us that if we don’t get these youths into a job or a classroom, their lives may never get back on track. In most cases, they want the opportunity, and they have tried. Many looked into the job market during or after the 2008 economic recession.

We’re taking this on as a personal charge. Phoenix will be the second city in the nation to host the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative.

On Friday, the City of Phoenix along with Arizona State University, Maricopa County Community Colleges, Maricopa County Education Services Agency and a variety of business partners such as Starbucks, Target, CVS Health, Microsoft and Republic Services will kick off an effort to bring opportunity to the youth of Maricopa County. We have the support of national funders such as the W.K. Kellogg, Rockefeller, MacArthur and Schultz Family foundations, and local organizations such as the Arizona Community Foundation.

Our mission is to provide the tools and paths to connect young people to jobs and classrooms.

We’ll bring together businesses, community colleges, universities, academic counselors, career coaches and a host of others who will serve as personal champions for these young people’s careers or educational efforts. Hiring representatives from more than 20 companies, interview skills trainers and resume writing teachers will gather at the Phoenix Convention Center, and we are inviting youth from throughout the area.

Registration is free at www.100kOpportunities.org/Phoenix. All we ask is that these young people show up with a drive to succeed and a will to work hard.

They will be able to apply for jobs or college admission and could get an offer on the spot. In the first event of its kind in Chicago, more than 800 job offers were made in a single day, and we expect hundreds more Friday in Phoenix.

We will not be done when the Convention Center doors close at 4 p.m. This is step one.

Businesses will continue to reach out to the youth who attended, even if they don’t get an offer Friday. ASU, Maricopa Community Colleges and other organizations will follow up with prospective students to ensure they are on the right track for their education goals.

This will spur long-term engagement, which will help participating companies hire thousands of more youth in the Phoenix area over the next three years.

To ensure the next generation’s success, we have to empower them. We have a responsibility to our community to make sure Phoenix is a city ready for the future, one where we feel confident about our young people’s prospects, and they feel more hopeful about tomorrow.

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