Careers, Connections and Community for Chicago’s Opportunity Youth

Career 360 logo

There was a purposeful energy and determination at LeadersUp’s Chicago Career 360: The Experience. Young adults from across the Chicagoland region entered the Lacuna Artist Lofts not only looking for employment, but also seeking a gateway to new possibilities. Together our team connected every single young man and woman in attendance to interview opportunities with employers in the transportation, distribution and logistics sector. Our employer partners included title sponsors C.H. Robinson, FedEx Freight and FedEx Express, plus SCR Medical Transportation, Becker Logistics, and United Airlines. All five companies offered on-the-spot hiring and career exploration for nearly 100 attendees.

Kymonee Cannon - Career 360 ParticipantPrior to the hiring event we prepared Chicago’s Opportunity Youth with mock interview sessions and sharpened their essential career readiness skills through our P.O.W.E.R. Skills curriculum. Many of the young adults who attended our pre Chicago Career 360 trainings, like 23-year-old Kymonee Cannon, a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago, secured multiple job offers.

“I got the job with C.H. Robinson and Becker Logistics,” shared Kymonee. “I felt like this event wanted to help people who wanted to come, people who wanted to make a difference in their life. My biggest inspiration is my son. I came to the event because I wanted to better my chances of finding my career and better my life.”

Chicago Career 360 marked our first experiential hiring event. I could not be more proud of the young adults who showed up with the resolve to start their careers—by not just interviewing but also authentically illustrating their skills for employers. Providing a launching pad for young adults who often face hiring biases due to a lack of experience was a core component to Chicago Career 360 and that was made possible through our partnership with Skill Scout.

Together with Skill Scout, a local Chicago talent platform and disrupter, we were able to develop hands-on activities tailored to each of the employers’ open positions. This innovative interviewing format allowed candidates to truly experience what each position demanded, while also allowing companies to see what candidates are able to do. The result was a more effective hiring match. “I loved the Skill Scout component. It was really helpful and helped set the expectations of the jobs,” Kymonee said.

Career 360 - Kymonee Cannon

When asked about the importance of the experiential interviewing at Chicago Career 360, Angie Freeman, C.H. Robinson’s chief human resources officer said, “This is a game changer. We get a better picture of each candidate’s current skill sets and future potential. Equally important, the candidates get a realistic job preview and a better understanding of the preliminary skills required to be successful in the role. This stronger alignment between job seekers and the hiring manager is critical to a successful fit.”

LeadersUp and Measure of American White Paper
Download to read the entire report.

Measuring the Talent-Divide to Create Sustainable Impact 

The road to Chicago Career 360 consisted of a series of defining events with stakeholders, employers, and young adults. Our goal was to gain insight into Chicago’s youth unemployment landscape and provide solutions to the talent-divide challenge. In partnership with Measure of America, a research and advocacy project of the Social Science Research Council, we distilled initial findings and released a white paper from our Innovation Session on the current realities of the Chicago youth unemployment challenge and the viable opportunities for stemming this crisis through employer-led hiring initiatives. Download the full report and check out highlights from the Innovation Session in the video below.


Opportunity Beyond Jobs for Chicago’s Young Adults 
We know that the barriers to employment young adults face are systemic and require the brain trust and resources of the entire community to help dismantle. This is why throughout the day, young adults had the opportunity to receive expert advice, resources and tips through the “Views and Power Moves” workshop circuit. In this curated guest speaker experience, individuals gained vital information on learning new professional skills, building strong finances, becoming entrepreneurial, and maintaining a healthy life balance—empowering them to persevere on their career journey.

“I really enjoyed the workshops. I felt I was getting thought-provoking messages,” shared Kymonee. “I also enjoyed hearing from professionals who acknowledged the problems we have in Chicago. To have someone come in that wants to help—that wants to see you succeed—means a lot. They made me feel prepared for the interviews.”

In addition to receiving expert advice, attendees participated in mock interviews, LinkedIn Learning modules, healthy food tips from the Fresh Moves Mobile Market, and Grads of Life’s experiential booth, where they learned how to succinctly connect their life experiences to the needs of employers.

The Path Forward 
One event for the more than 140,000 Opportunity Youth in Chicagoland will not suffice. Breaking young adults free of the holding pattern caused by undeveloped critical professional and social skills necessary for a quality life is a shared responsibility. If left unaddressed there will be severe consequences for our economy, our communities and our future. So often we view solving the talent-divide challenge solely through the lens of workforce development. It’s time we widen our lens of focus and put humanity alongside workforce development. For business leaders grappling with wanting to build a talent pipeline of Opportunity Youth but not knowing where to begin, community leaders earnestly striving to prepare their youth to succeed with limited resources, and young adults resiliently pursuing their goals despite the unimaginable circumstances they may face, the time is now. We need to ensure we are meeting the real needs of each stakeholder. Achieving this starts with you.

We are just getting starting and want to hear from you. Let us know how you would like to be part of this movement hereI encourage you to learn more about the impact achieved by reading this piece from the Chicago Tribune and visiting our Facebook page to view additional images from Chicago Career 360.

In service,

Jeffery Wallace

President and CEO, LeadersUp

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