I remember my first job well. I tended to greenhouses and operated machines. It taught me so much. I learned how to show up on time every day. I learned how to get tasks done irrespective of whether they excited me or not. I developed relationships with adults and learned how to work in a team and resolve conflicts. I learned how to receive and respond to feedback. I learned about consequences of mistakes. I learned about accountability and rewards. I appreciated the structure my first job brought to my life. And, as a young man, I sure appreciated the extra cash. But, perhaps most importantly, I ended up with some experience I could put on my resume or on an application form.
All young people need a first-job. It gives them some experience, increases their confidence, and allows them to develop their networks. But not all are getting it. One in seven young people aged 16 to 24 are both out of school and out of work – a population that is disproportionately young men of color. That is why, on Tuesday, the White House launched the #FirstJob Compact of Best Practices for Hiring, Recruiting, and Supporting Young People —a set of best practices that were designed with leading companies in hiring and promoting young people who are not in school or working. The #FirstJob Compact will accomplish several things including identifying jobs and internships for youth with no experience and developing a plan to support these youth once hired. It also calls on nonprofits, school districts, workforce development boards, and others to help recruit these youth.
Nearly 40 major companies have signed on as Founding Members of #FirstJob Compact. Gap Inc. is one of these companies and has committed to expanding its life skills and paid internship program. This Way Ahead is the name of Gap’s program that gives 16 to 24 year olds from low-income communities training and in-store work experience. Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy will recruit five percent of all entry-level store employees from graduates from this program by 2025, or approximately 5,000 hires per year.
I am calling on employers in the education sector to do the same. There are approximately 13,500 school districts and almost 100,000 public schools, 2,300 adult education programs, and more than 7,000 institutions of higher education in the U.S. If each of these institutions offers just one young person their first job, then we will have made an important step in the right direction. Let’s work together to end resumes that have blanks in the experience section.