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 to 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 + advice.


  • In 2019, more than 2,500 youth participated in the program across 576 stores in 70 cities, up from 444 stores and 53 cities in 2018.
  • 68% of youth reported a significant increase in confidence in an annual survey conducted by a third-party evaluator.
  • 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 more than 1,100 stores, this transition will raise 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. 

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 – 95 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. In 2019, we published the Gap Inc. This Way ONward Playbook, distilling lessons from the program’s 10-plus years to outline four key steps our stores can take to find and hire untapped talent. The playbook also includes resources like an interview guide and a checklist for things to do as a mentor. 

Participant and mentor evaluations of This Way ONward continue to demonstrate the program’s impact, with 68 percent of participants reporting an increase in confidence and 84 percent of mentors reporting improved creative-thinking and problem-solving skills. 

“Starting as a Brand Associate was not easy, because it was my first job, but through hard work and learning from my team, now I make it look easy. I've learned that the best way to do great work is to love what you do.”

This Way ONward Alumna, Vancouver 2018 
Current Fitting Room Lead at Old Navy

Portrait of employee

Employee at a podium

"Many people that I know are struggling, and they are starting to change their lives because they see me doing it. I’m completing my goals and being true to myself. Little by little, I’m becoming someone.”

This Way ONWard Alumnus, Houston 2018
Current Brand Ambassador at Banana Republic

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