Investing in youth pathways to success: addressing the skills-gap

By Andrew Plepler, Environmental, Social and Governance Executive, Bank of America.

A recent Brookings report estimated that 3 million young people ages 16-24, or 7.6 percent of all young people in the U.S., are disconnected from pathways to economic success, because they are either unemployed or not in school. The report also found that young people become more competitive job candidates when they have education, skills, and experience on their resume.

This is an area that I’m passionate about - I can still vividly recall meeting a group of teens from Anacostia in Washington D.C. in 1996 at a forum for youth violence. They eloquently articulated the obvious, that they needed jobs to help them forge a new path and stay out of trouble. They were eager to develop their credentials in order to join the workforce but lacked the opportunities. Too often, urban young adults face a multitude of challenges that impact their long-term success. My experience led me to help create Urban Alliance, a nonprofit that supports youth in the D.C. area and additional cities across the country with paid internships, training and mentorship. For many young people, Urban Alliance opens a door for them to gain employment experience that is vital for them to develop a trajectory for success.

Recently, there have been several thought-provoking articles about the need to boost young people’s skills and opportunities through paid internships - in his New York Times oped, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker notes that paid internships are often secured by those with networks and connections that others lack, while Shayndi Raice’s blog in the Wall Street Journal states that young people with paid internships are more likely to secure job offers and make inroads on their professional path. It’s clear that the future of our communities hinge on the success of our young people, but so much more remains to be done to help put all of our young people on the path to success.

At Bank of America, we believe that we cannot be truly successful unless the customers and communities we serve have a chance to create their own success. Today, we announced a $40 million, three-year, commitment to connect 100,000 young people to the skills and employment experiences they need to achieve long-term success. Through this effort and in partnership with nonprofits and mayors offices across the country, we’ll support summer internships, education and workforce training, and make investments to advance diverse talent. It’s about helping youth find pathways to success, something that ultimately benefits all of us, and advances our commitment to create a more sustainable future.

There are tangible ways for each of us to engage in this effort - from supporting a local organization investing in youth to mentoring a young person as they navigate academic and career choices. I’m reminded that we need our young people to develop into the future leaders who will address the challenges we face as a nation, and as a society.

We recently asked some of our 2016 Bank of America Student Leaders about their vision for the future and what they need for success. I hope you’ll take a moment to watch and share their ideas. It underscores that young people around the country have huge ambitions and ideas on how to improve their lives and our communities. They have the drive and the passion. Let’s give them the opportunity to create a better future.


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