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CVS, Walgreens take part in youth jobs coalition

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100,000 Opportunities Initiative to spur training, practical experience

CHICAGO — CVS Health, Walgreens, Walmart and Target are among more than a dozen U.S.-based companies forming the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, an employer-led coalition that aims to create pathways to jobs for America’s young people.

The coalition has set a goal to engage at least 100,000 “Opportunity Youth” — 16- to 24-year-olds who face systemic barriers to jobs and education — by 2018 via apprenticeships, internships, training programs, and part-time and full-time jobs. Also, the group will leverage current collaborative efforts in a handful of cities to partner in building these pathways.

Founding companies include Alaska Airlines, Cintas, CVS Health, Hilton Worldwide, HMSHost, JCPenney, JPMorgan Chase, Lyft, Macy’s, Microsoft, Porch.com, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative will commence with an employer-initiated Opportunity Fair & Forum for Opportunity Youth in Chicago on Aug. 13, where the participating companies expect to collectively train more than 2,000 youth and make at least 200 on-the-spot job offers. By partnering with local workforce leaders, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative expects to hire at least 1,000 youth in the Chicago area over the next 18 months.

The Opportunity Forum will be hosted by Grammy- and Academy Award-winning performing artist and actor Common, who will lead an open discussion with more than 2,000 young people and their support networks focused on economic opportunity in America. Joining him on stage will be special guests, entertainers and speakers.

“I am pleased that Chicago was selected to host the first hiring event, and I look forward to working with these companies to help solve a critical issue facing our neighborhoods and the young people who live there today,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

In the United States, there are 5.6 million youth ages of 16 to 24 who are out of school and not working. At the same time, there are 3.5 million unfilled jobs that don’t require a four-year degree and constitute the largest part of the natin’s labor market. For employers looking to fill these jobs, young, motivated workers are seen as a vital, untapped resource. However, young people are often unaware that these opportunities are available and aren’t sure about the steps they need to take to pursue and secure such jobs. Also, employers often lack clear strategies to effectively recruit, train and retain young workers.

The Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions is serving as an intermediary for the initiative, building upon the work of its national Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund (OYIF). The OYIF currently supports collaborative efforts focused on Opportunity Youth in 21 communities around the country. The Aspen Institute will provide direct leadership, technical assistance and programmatic support to launch the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative in a handful of those cities.

“Breaking down barriers to employment for young people doesn’t just help the individual workers, it benefits entire communities and the economy at large,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez stated. “The corporate leaders championing the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative recognize that promoting career opportunities for youth is a win-win, and I hope more employers will follow their lead.

CVS Health noted that it has an ongoing commitment to train and hire young people. The company said it has longstanding partnerships with the Department of Labor and White House’s Summer Jobs+ initiative and was the first employer to launch a U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship program for pharmacy technicians. Through that program, CVS has placed more than 1,500 colleagues in Registered Apprenticeship career tracks in retail pharmacy and management and has committed to doubling that number over the next five years. Also, more than 1 million young people have participated in the company’s Pathways to Health Care program since it launched in 2000. Serving students in more than 40 cities across the United States, the program has awarded over $4 million in summer internship wages and continues to be a tool for high-school and college-aged students.

“CVS Health is pleased to join the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative as part of our company’s ongoing commitment to connecting talented young people with meaningful apprenticeships, internships and jobs,” Larry Merlo, president and chief executive officer of CVS Health, said in a statement. “We know that today’s youth are the business leaders, pharmacists, nurse practitioners and health care professionals of tomorrow. That’s why we’re focused on introducing young people to careers in health care and pharmacy, two significantly expanding fields, and ensuring that they are armed with the skills they need to achieve success in not only their careers, but also in life. By training and hiring young people, we are not only building a strong workforce, but also stronger communities.”

Walgreens, too, has made a commitment to foster the development of the nation’s youth by creating employment opportunities. Through its job shadow, internship and employment opportunities for local youth around the country, Walgreens has provided exposure to a range of careers from store management to supply chain to corporate careers, including more than 100,000 hours of training and mentorship to thousands of young people annually. Each year, the company also donates more than $1 million to the nation’s pharmacy schools to improve diversity among pharmacy students. In addition, high school students can gain Walgreens pharmacy experience through its job shadow program. The company’s pharmacy technician training program, which focuses on young people, is accredited by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists.

In recent years, Walgreens has formalized programs aimed at hiring those in underserved employment populations. Hundreds of young Americans with mental or physical disabilities have found employment at Walgreens in distribution centers and stores through its Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative (REDI) program. Walgreens also works with a New York youth agency to create internships for those in the foster care system.

“For more than a century, Walgreens has grown its business on a tradition of recruiting young talent and building professional career paths that can take them to the company’s highest ranks,” commented Walgreens president Alex Gourlay. “We are proud to join with other great American brands to broaden opportunity for young men and women and provide access to the training, skills development and experience needed to build a strong workforce and growing economy.”

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation will provide support to the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative via their Retail Opportunity Initiative, announced in February, which includes a $100 million investment over the next five years to create pathways for advancing people — including youth — in the retail sector. In addition to helping to support the Aspen Institute in the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation will work with local organizations in Chicago and other cities to remove barriers to advancement. The work includes philanthropic investments in career path mapping, pre-employment training, placement programs, up-skilling, and credentialing, along with engagement in cross-sector partnerships.

“Walmart and the Walmart Foundation work to improve the lives of millions of people through creating economic mobility and strengthening communities,” stated Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart Stores Inc. “Through our Opportunity Initiative, we are working in partnership with others to address the fundamental challenges facing the retail and related industry workforces and create opportunities through job training that will allow for clear career advancement. We are pleased to join the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative to prepare youth for successful and rewarding careers in retail.”

Target Corp. said that this year the company will achieve its goal of giving $1 billion to education, helping children reach their potential while creating an educated workforce and future leaders for the future. Target noted that it strives to be locally relevant to the customers and communities it serves, which includes creating jobs and inspiring employees to give back. Last year, Target employees donated more than a million volunteer hours to projects they’re passionate about and with organizations that make an impact in the communities where they live and work, and they are on track to do the same in 2015, the company said.

“At Target, we seek innovative ways to fuel our growth, improve people’s lives and make a sustainable difference in the world. Our team members are our greatest asset, and it is through their contributions that we continue to surpass our guests’ expectations every time they shop with us,” commented Target chairman and CEO Brian Cornell. “Being a founding member of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative will connect Target with motivated, high-potential young people that help ensure our workforce is as diverse as the guests we serve.”


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