How to Build a Stronger Talent Pipeline

The following blog post was written by Elyse Rosenblum, Principal, Grads of Life

Earlier this month, President Obama announced that the White House and the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Education would nearly double last year’s budget request to support young Americans who are out of school and out of work. By proposing $5.5 billion for summer jobs, $3 billion to expand talent pipelines in 50 select regions, and $2 billion to double the number of U.S. apprenticeships, the President’s proposal aims to ensure that these young adults are not being left behind as the United States continues the longest streak of private-sector job growth in our history.

The proposal is critical, because despite growing concerns about finding skilled talent in a tightening labor market, youth employment in our country remains stubbornly low. Today there are nearly six million opportunity youth – young adults ages 16-24 who are out-of-school, out-of-work and without access to the economic mainstream. The Grads of Life campaign was conceived as a response to this challenge.

Our approach is based on the deep belief that the most promising strategy for connecting opportunity youth to employment is by leveraging the power of the private sector. To do this, in September 2014, we launched a Public Service Announcement in collaboration with the Ad Council called Grads of Life.

Grads of Life is a multimedia campaign designed to showcase the potential of young adults who lack college credentials but bring determination, resilience, and loyalty to forward-thinking employers. Since its launch, Grads of Life has received more than $44M in donated media and its advertisements have been viewed 1.2 billion times.

Our research suggested that employers’ perceptions of opportunity youth was a major barrier inhibiting employers from creating employment pathways. A year and a half into the Grads of Life Public Service Announcement campaign, we have not yet saturated the media market, but we now know our campaign has had a substantial impact on perceptions among employers. For example, a post-tracking survey done by the Ad Council revealed that 64% of hiring decision makers who were familiar with the Grads of Life campaign reported taking action to get more information about how to cultivate, hire, and train from a different pool of talent, compared to just 12% of those who were not familiar with the campaign.

The campaign is complemented by, a digital platform where employers of all sizes can find the tools and resources they need to learn about, invest in, and customize effective employment pathways, such as training, mentoring, internships, and hiring, to support their talent needs. Resources include a centralized partner directory, toolkits, and best practice models that employers can use to create new talent pipelines.

A year and a half into the campaign, we are excited to report that more than half a million visitors have explored, far exceeding our original expectations. In addition to significantly accelerating the employer demand field, Grads of Life has helped employers find partners and create employment pathways for opportunity youth. For example, 30,000 visitors to the website have searched our Partner Directory, a listing of direct service organizations that provide job training to opportunity youth and work with employers to help them tap into this source of talent.

The Grads of Life campaign has demonstrated that national advertising can drive employer demand and that demand is strong nationwide, particularly among employers that have pressing talent needs. These employers are willing to work with opportunity youth but need help in order to do so effectively.

We applaud President Obama for his proposals, and look forward to working with both the current Administration as well as the next President to catalyze a broad corporate commitment to developing wider pipelines of talent. As we know, change cannot happen without the involvement of the private sector, which is why Grads of Life provides employers themselves with tools to take action. So what can you do today to help ensure that more pathways are developed for opportunity youth?

  • Moving Business Forward: Learn about the return on investment that employers across the country are realizing by creating employment pathways to grow their talent pool. Does your company have data on how opportunity youth are helping your bottom line? We would love to know more.
  • Success Stories: Read case studies documenting how employers have successfully built employment pathways and customized models. Know of a company that should be profiled, but isn’t? Please let us know!
  • Tools to Act: Find out how you can start building skilled talent pipelines that are customized to meet your company’s needs.
  • Partner Directory: Connect with a partner organization in your area that is working with young adults, which can help you create an employment pathway for a steady source of reliable entry-level employees. Do you know of an organization that should be listed? Please direct them to the application.

About Grads of Life

The Grads of Life campaign seeks to address the opportunity divide in the United States, the gap between the 6 million young people without access to employment or educational opportunities, and more than 4 million vacant positions businesses are in dire need of filling. To close this divide, a coalition of partners including America Forward Coalition Members Year Up and Opportunity Nation, along with the Employment Pathways Project, New Options Project, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, ConPRmetidos and Public Private Possibilities worked with the Ad Council to create this campaign designed to shift employer’s perceptions of opportunity youth and support employer’s evolving business practices to include these talented, young adults. To learn more about the Grads of Life please visit

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