This Way ONward - First Jobs

We believe in the power of a first job.

 

Young woman with backpack

Our Old Navy brand believes in the democracy of fashion, not only in the clothes we sell, but the team we build. This Way ONward (previously This Way Ahead) was created to provide the next generation of leaders aged 16-24 with the jobs and mentorship they need to develop the skills and confidence to succeed.  

Some This Way ONward youth have never had a job, others are saving money for college, or chipping in to pay the bills at home. Our goal is to help them go farther on the path ahead while recruiting a powerful pipeline of talent that reflects the communities we serve. That’s why Old Navy has committed 5% of new entry-level hires to This Way ONward participants by 2025.

Beyond a paycheck, the program gives the young people who participate new career and life skills, as well as valuable first-job experience, helping build their confidence for the future. It also builds leadership skills among the employees who mentor This Way ONward youth, and helps our company grow and stay competitive, delivering benefits across our business. Since 2007, the program has helped Gap Inc. build a valuable pipeline of future employees while developing best practices for managing talent that we can apply across the company.

Check out the latest This Way ONward news here

Old Navy has committed 5% of new entry-level hires to This Way ONward participants by 2025. 

Our Approach

1. Our employees connect with community partners who provide youth with job training and volunteer to teach youth skills they need to get and keep a job.

2. When our teams are looking for high-potential talent, they interview youth and hire for potential, not credential. 

3. When This Way ONward associates begin working, they receive post-hire support, including ongoing coaching from their store manager and a job coach from the community partner. They’re also paired with a Big Sib, a seasoned peer who serves as their go-to for questions and advice. 

THE SHORT STORY 
THIS WAY ONWARD 

  • Since 2007, more than 9,000 young people have participated in This Way ONward, putting us nearly halfway to our goal of reaching 20,000 youth by 2025. 
  • 63% of youth reported improved confidence, 81 percent reported improved work-ready skills and 67% reported improved soft skills. 
  • 72% of alumni have secured stable employment compared to 55% of their peers, according to a study of 10 years of alumni. 

Over a Decade of Impact

Since the launch of This Way ONward in 2007, we have measured substantial social and business benefits. You can download our alumni report here.

We are continually refining This Way ONward based on data we collect and feedback we receive from community partners, participants and employee volunteers. Given external trends, we have built a program that is responsive to the changing landscape for young employees. 

In recent years, we have also dedicated time to evaluating how we could make an even bigger impact through This Way ONward, and in 2019, we decided to do that by shifting the program from several brands in our portfolio solely to Old Navy. Building on Old Navy’s strong leadership in the program, its partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the brand’s nationwide presence of 1,220 stores as of the end of Fiscal Year 2020, this transition is raising our opportunity for impact while supporting Old Navy’s business model for recruiting and developing talent. For Old Navy, This Way ONward is the first place to look for talent when it comes to hiring new associates. 

Goals and Progress 
Goal: 
Hire 5 percent of store entry-level employees from This Way ONward annually by 2025. 

Progress toward 5 percent goal 

2017 

2018 

2019 

2020* 

0.9% (668) 

1.4% (1,107) 

2.1% (1,618) 

2.1% (912) 

 * Numbers in 2020 are lower due to program shift to Old Navy stores exclusively, as well as temporary store closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

 

Goal: Reach 20,000 youth through This Way ONward

Progress toward 20,000 youth goal* 

2007 

2016 

2017 

2018 

2019 

2020 

0 (program launch) 

2,713 

3,900 

5,677 

8,201 

9,113 

*These numbers are cumulative since program launch. 

More broadly, Gap Inc. expects the expansion of This Way ONward to support our company goal to increase representation of Black employees by 50 percent in store leader roles in the U.S. by 2025. This Way ONward alumni—90 percent of whom are people of color—represent immense potential for our leadership pipeline.  

We are also continuing to apply lessons we have learned from This Way ONward across our company. We have integrated the lessons from This Way ONward into Gap Inc.’s Talent and Community Hiring Playbook, which teaches our brands and functions how to “hire for potential, not credential” through partnerships with community organizations. 

Participant and mentor evaluations of This Way ONward continue to demonstrate the program’s impact.  Our 2020 evaluation survey revealed that This Way ONward new hires feel a sense of belonging at Old Navy, feel supported by their managers and are excited about their work. Sixty-three percent reported improved confidence, 81 percent reporting improved work-ready skills and 67 percent reported improved soft skills. 

 “If it wasn’t for This Way [ONward] I wouldn’t be here right now. I took a big leap of faith because when I started I was very shy. The program helped me come out of my shell. I started speaking up and asking questions. There was more than just folding clothes. The Old Navy and This Way [ONward] partnership is like a big family, a lot of networking:  something I thought I would never do.”   

 

Karen Diosa 
This Way ONward Alumna, NYC 2009 ​
General Manager at Old Navy 

Karen Standing Next to This Way ONward Poster

Karen Diosa, This Way Ahead NYC alumna promoted to General Manager Dec 2019, and Steve Stickel, Old Navy Head of Stores

 

2017 

2018 

2019 

2020** 

Youth 

1,148 

1,700+ 

2,524 

912 

Stores 

274 

444 

576 

471 

** The 2020 hiring goal was lowered from 975 to 700 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

2020 Progress 

Although This Way ONward was paused for a period of time during the pandemic, the program continued to provide Old Navy with a diverse and reliable source of talent. In 2020, 55 percent of all This Way ONward applicants were hired, compared with less than 10 percent of applicants from other sources. This is supporting Gap Inc.’s Equality & Belonging goal to increase diverse representation in our pipeline. More than 1,000 This Way ONward alumni are now Gap Inc. employees, the vast majority of whom identify as people of color. 

Also in 2020, Old Navy raised $2.4 million for This Way ONward and highlighted the youth unemployment crisis through multimedia platforms, including a TV spot with RuPaul that generated an estimated 400 million views. 

How We Adapted during a Time of Crisis 

Due to COVID-19, Old Navy paused the internship program, instead focusing on staffing stores once they were ready to reopen. While stores were temporarily closed, all 17 partner nonprofit organizations developed a virtual community to share best practices for training youth online. This spurred the development of more than 100 virtual career fairs and a group interview—an innovative way to create real connections with job applicants during lockdown. More than half of This Way ONward hires in 2020 came through these fairs, and, looking ahead, program leaders will identify ways to continue using them. We will also be reinstating opportunities for in-person meetings post-pandemic, as our 2020 evaluation revealed that managers and supervisors had wanted to get to know youth earlier in the process. The evaluation also revealed other areas for improvement—outlining how alumni can build a career at Old Navy and finding ways to standardize tools, knowledge and training—that we will take into account as we expand the program across new regions and stores. 

In 2020, the pandemic was not the only crisis. The high-profile cases of police violence and the movement to end racial injustice affected the This Way ONward community. In recognition of the pain and trauma caused by systemic racism, our program leaders and nonprofit partners explored ways to support our community through one-on-one outreach and the provision of employee mental health resources. 

The partnerships fostered over 15 years have created a rich support network that was essential during the interconnected health, racial injustice and economic crises of 2020. For example, This Way ONward pioneer partner, The Door, offered services and support for furloughed store employees in New York City. The Door provided food, clothing, personal care essentials and access to technology to young people in need. We are humbled by the support they provided our people during the pandemic. 

As businesses open up again, we are excited to tap into the opportunities presented by Old Navy stores and Boys & Girls Clubs across the U.S. and Canada. We plan to apply what we learned about hiring for potential and community hiring in other functions across our company. We are also developing advancement pathways to expand engagement with program alumni, offering ongoing support and access to the networks and skills that will strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion at Gap Inc. 

If your nonprofit organization is interested in partnering with an Old Navy store for This Way ONward, please get in touch by filling out this form.

2020 Active Community Partners 

Archdiocesan Youth Employment (AYE)

Boys & Girls Clubs of America  

BGC Canada  

Cambridge Affordable Housing Authority  

City of Calgary’s Youth Employment Centre  

Enterprise for Youth  

Goodwill of North Georgia  

Orlando Youth & Community Trust  

Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS)  

Sacramento Employment & Training Agency (SETA)  

San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP)  

SER Jobs for Progress of the Texas Gulf Coast Inc.  

The Door – A Center of Alternatives, Inc.  

YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School  

Youth Co-Op, Inc.  

Youth Employment Services (YES)

Youth Job Center 

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