Reconnected: Opportunity Youth Toolkit

Help Impoverished Young Adults Redefine their Life Trajectories

Grads of Life

Grads of Life

ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITY

A public awareness campaign persuades businesses to hire nontraditional candidates

Grads of Life has a straightforward message to employers: To meet the growing need for qualified applicants, businesses should be part of the solution and address high rates of disconnectedness among young people. While organizations like Year Up, YouthBuild, and others can help improve a young person’s skill base, employers still need to be willing to take a chance on him or her.

However, traditional corporate hiring policies are not necessarily designed to recruit and hire nontraditional candidates. That’s why a coalition of partners (including Year Up, the Employment Pathways Project, ConPRmetidos, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, New Options Project, and Opportunity Nation) launched Grads of Life in 2014. In association with the nonprofit Ad Council, it developed a public awareness campaign geared toward encouraging employers to consider young, nontraditional candidates as a valuable source of talent.

The crux of Grads of Life’s work is to shift employer perceptions of opportunity youth from social liabilities to economic assets, and help hiring professionals broaden and diversify their talent pools to include these young adults. Given that opportunity youth do not usually have a strong traditional resume, the campaign designed 7 Second Resumes, short videos in which young adults talk about the unique skills they have acquired through their life experiences—qualities that have helped shape them into more valuable, well-rounded employees. It used print, radio, video, and social media to promote its message, knowing that seven seconds is the average time a human resource professional at a major corporation takes to review a resume. With the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Grads of Life has also established a website to provide additional background on the campaign, its rationale, and help employers connect to local pipelines of nontraditional candidates.

ENCOURAGING RESULTS AND WAYS TO HELP

The metrics for evaluating a public awareness campaign like Grads of Life differ from those used to evaluate a direct service organization. Thus far, the campaign’s metrics look positive. For starters, the campaign has secured $76 million in donated media, far exceeding expectations. An Ad Council tracking survey of 600 recruiters and hiring managers found that one-quarter had seen the Grads of Life campaign, and that three in four believed that hiring opportunity youth “is good for business.” General awareness about hiring nontraditional candidates increased from 17% to 29% between 2014 and 2017, while the number of employers that are planning to fill positions with these workers has grown from 11% to 19% in the same period.

Most tellingly, the number of individual inquiries from corporations for further information has been steadily climbing. This is promising given that a Grads of Life survey of 600 businesses found that 35% of employers considered the majority of their jobs as “middle skills” defined as those that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. Yet, 63% of those same businesses reported that middle skills jobs were difficult to fill in their companies.

Donors interested in advancing the message of the campaign can help in a variety of ways such as helping secure local media donations, contributing information about local organizations working with this cohort, or urging your own employer to consider exploring nontraditional employment pipelines. You can find a detailed summary of ways to get involved at on their website.

Grads of Life

A public awareness campaign persuades businesses to hire nontraditional candidates

Grads of Life has a straightforward message to employers: To meet the growing need for qualified applicants, businesses should be part of the solution and address high rates of disconnectedness among young people. While organizations like Year Up, YouthBuild, and others can help improve a young person’s skill base, employers still need to be willing to take a chance on him or her.

However, traditional corporate hiring policies are not necessarily designed to recruit and hire nontraditional candidates. That’s why a coalition of partners (including Year Up, the Employment Pathways Project, ConPRmetidos, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, New Options Project, and Opportunity Nation) launched Grads of Life in 2014. In association with the nonprofit Ad Council, it developed a public awareness campaign geared toward encouraging employers to consider young, nontraditional candidates as a valuable source of talent.

The crux of Grads of Life’s work is to shift employer perceptions of opportunity youth from social liabilities to economic assets, and help hiring professionals broaden and diversify their talent pools to include these young adults. Given that opportunity youth do not usually have a strong traditional resume, the campaign designed 7 Second Resumes, short videos in which young adults talk about the unique skills they have acquired through their life experiences—qualities that have helped shape them into more valuable, well-rounded employees. It used print, radio, video, and social media to promote its message, knowing that seven seconds is the average time a human resource professional at a major corporation takes to review a resume. With the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Grads of Life has also established a website to provide additional background on the campaign, its rationale, and help employers connect to local pipelines of nontraditional candidates.

ENCOURAGING RESULTS AND WAYS TO HELP

The metrics for evaluating a public awareness campaign like Grads of Life differ from those used to evaluate a direct service organization. Thus far, the campaign’s metrics look positive. For starters, the campaign has secured $76 million in donated media, far exceeding expectations. An Ad Council tracking survey of 600 recruiters and hiring managers found that one-quarter had seen the Grads of Life campaign, and that three in four believed that hiring opportunity youth “is good for business.” General awareness about hiring nontraditional candidates increased from 17% to 29% between 2014 and 2017, while the number of employers that are planning to fill positions with these workers has grown from 11% to 19% in the same period.

Most tellingly, the number of individual inquiries from corporations for further information has been steadily climbing. This is promising given that a Grads of Life survey of 600 businesses found that 35% of employers considered the majority of their jobs as “middle skills” defined as those that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. Yet, 63% of those same businesses reported that middle skills jobs were difficult to fill in their companies.

Donors interested in advancing the message of the campaign can help in a variety of ways such as helping secure local media donations, contributing information about local organizations working with this cohort, or urging your own employer to consider exploring nontraditional employment pipelines. You can find a detailed summary of ways to get involved at on their website.