Our work to help underserved youth prepare for adulthood addresses the pressing need to provide young people with the opportunity to build successful futures. We see potential to make a deep impact in this area based on our company culture and assets.
Today, young people face unprecedented challenges. Youth unemployment has been steadily rising. Typically, the month of July represents the peak of youth employment, but in 2010 only 49 percent of youth had jobs at that time – the lowest on record since 1948. And employment prospects are lower for young people who do not advance in their education beyond high school; it is predicted that by 2018 only 36 percent of all jobs will require workers who have a high school diploma or less.
Young people from underserved communities may be particularly affected by the current situation, as they often lack access to information about how to get a job and keep one. They aren’t exposed to the variety of careers available, or don’t know what type of education it takes to pursue them.
To help address these needs, we focus investments on helping youth prepare for adulthood through career exploration and job-readiness training. We aim to keep youth engaged in their education and help them become better prepared for life after high school through lessons learned from the world of work.
We call on our company assets – namely, our understanding of youth culture and our 134,000 employees – to support these efforts. Since we opened our first Gap store, thousands of youth have found their first jobs at our store locations. Our store managers work closely with these young people on a daily basis; this experience gives our store employees an understanding of what it takes for a young person to get a job and succeed in a work environment, from creating a good impression at an interview to resolving conflict. Our store employees make a significant impact in the community by volunteering to share their skills and knowledge with underserved youth — employees may volunteer to act as coaches or teach a young person how to create a resume. They also provide counsel about the importance of education, no matter what path a young person would like to pursue. Leveraging our employee skills, knowledge, and talent helps us create more impact for youth than we could by solely investing money.
We approach helping youth prepare for adulthood from a variety of angles, including two programs that we created through cross-sector partnerships.
Our signature program, This Way Ahead, provides career exploration and job readiness training for underserved young people in New York City and San Francisco. With our nonprofit partners, Gap Inc. employees co-lead classes and bring their knowledge of working in stores into the classroom. Youth participants also apply for paid internships at Gap and Old Navy stores. To date, 76% of youth who completed the program showed improvement in job attainment skills.
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Designed in partnership with the Pearson Foundation, Plan Ahead is a semester-long ninth grade college and career awareness course that impacts nearly 4,000 young people a year in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The course is a requirement for graduation at SFUSD. During 75 hours of instruction, Plan Ahead covers everything from “What am I good at?” to plotting out a path to a career, college, and life after high school.
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Grantmaking is another component of our strategy. We invest in college, career, and job-readiness programs for youth. Core to our strategy is that we see ourselves as partners to nonprofits and seek to link them to our company assets beyond cash grants. Each of our partners below has been able to leverage the time and talent of Gap Inc. employees via what we call “link and leverage.”
- Breakthrough Collaborative, a national organization based in San Francisco, California, uses high school and college students as tutors for middle-school students, increasing educational opportunities at the same time that it encourages older students to pursue careers in education.
- Chicago Youth Programs, an innovative community organization, provides a vast range of services tailored for pre-school through college, including mentoring, recreation, quality healthcare, cultural programs, college preparation and scholarships.
- Centrepoint, a youth organization based in London, offers broad support to homeless youth and helps them become independent. Centrepoint goes beyond providing housing to helping young people manage their finances, develop healthy lifestyles, expand their education and vocational training, cultivate a plan for the future and reach their potential.
 Goodwill Industries International. (2010). Community solutions: Connecting youth with community and careers. Rockville, MD.