Location: United States
Summary: Through our signature program This Way Ahead, our employees are helping youth gain the skills and confidence to prepare for adulthood — by exposing them to the real world of work.
Gap Inc. created This Way Ahead as a prime vehicle to achieve our goal of providing youth with opportunities to unleash their potential and create a successful path to adulthood. Spanning 20 months, it features four phases: career exploration; job readiness classes on topics such as diversity and conflict resolution; paid internships at Gap and Old Navy stores; and a year of follow-on support. This Way Ahead aims to help youth envision new possibilities, better understand how the choices they make about education will impact their long-term career goals, and gain the skills, inspiration and confidence they need to realize their potential.
This Way Ahead embodies our strategy of creatively utilizing our assets to deepen our impact. Our employees have played an instrumental role in this program through volunteering their time and talent to write much of the curriculum, teach classes, and mentor interns. Gap and Old Navy stores have become a window into the world of work, as participants rotate through a range of jobs. And employees are learning that they are learning something, too. Their participation is an opportunity to enhance their skills and leads to a deeper commitment to our company and the community.
We launched This Way Ahead in New York in 2006 and expanded the program to San Francisco in 2010, working in close partnership with two leading nonprofits – The Door in New York, and Enterprise for High School Students in San Francisco. To date, more than 400 young people have participated in elements of This Way Ahead.
On a typical day of This Way Ahead, teens attend classes taught by Gap Inc. employee volunteers on such topics as customer service and public speaking. The youth share their life experiences and aspirations, and work on the spot to come up with solutions to problems. Youth who become interns meet regularly with a supervisor who mentors them about their jobs and their educational and career goals.
This Way Ahead is explicitly designed not to be a free ride. Expectations are high, and only half of participants become interns. Intern selection is a competitive process, intended to create a real-world experience for youth. This Way Ahead creates opportunities for participants to discover and direct their own potential.
Our evaluation partner, TCC Group, has assessed the program and results to date are encouraging:
- 76 percent of youth showed improvements in job attainment skills.
- Youth showed gains across all six measures of personal growth: maturity, conflict resolution, leadership, financial management, willpower, and career outlook.
Gap Inc. Employees
- More than 80 percent of volunteers said they improved their own professional skills due to involvement in This Way Ahead.
- 100 percent of volunteers said This Way Ahead made them “extremely proud” to be Gap Inc. employees.
- Our nonprofit partners are growing their skills and increasing their understanding of what it takes to help youth succeed in the world of work.
Student participants tell us they gained independence, learned to manage and prioritize their time, and realized “that I need to plan things out for my future.”
“[Working in stores] teaches you so much,” said Ackesha Shields-Miller, an intern at a Gap store in Manhattan. “On my first day I was so scared to deal with customers. I was nervous at the cash register. Now it comes to me like nothing.”
One of our employee volunteers reported: “It opens employees’ eyes about what we care about as a company.” A Gap store manager who teaches This Way Ahead sees the program as “part of my benefits package.”
“The young people who participate in This Way Ahead are trained in areas that include public speaking, how to manage conflict, and the need to think about the long-term consequences of their decisions,” says Gail Gershon, Senior Director of Employee Engagement and Service Leadership at Gap Inc. “It has been extremely gratifying to see the program participants grow and develop over time, and to see them view their own potential in new and exciting ways. Through This Way Ahead, young people learn what it takes to succeed in the workplace, but more importantly, they also learn what it takes to succeed in life.”
Next program in action
This Way Ahead Workshops
Members of Gap Inc.’s own Learning & Development team created the This Way Ahead curricula – a series of workshops to teach young people participating in the program the soft skills they need to get ready for the world of work.Download a This Way Ahead workshop