Joining forces with United Way to tackle youth unemployment

In late 2014, Jessica was working full-time at a day-care center in Pittsburgh and making minimum wage. Her hours were long and, as a single parent, childcare was tricky. “I never got off on time,” she recalls, “So the kids were often with me. We would be walking downtown at night at 10pm, and they’d be so tired.”

Jessica had hoped to enter the healthcare field for quite some time, so when she heard about Generation’s certified nursing assistant (CNA) program, she eagerly applied. Less than a month after graduating from the 8-week program, she was hired by a local hospital. Looking back, Jessica thinks her time in Generation was transformative. “My teacher went above and beyond teaching us the knowledge we need, but she also taught me life skills.”

Today, Jessica is one of over 10,000 young women and men across five countries who have graduated from Generation, a program founded by McKinsey Social Initiative. Behind it lies our Education to Employment research, which found that while 73 million young people were out of work, 40 percent of employers could not find employees with the skills they needed.

“We’ve built and tested a new approach, which works in partnership with employers to place young people in jobs, through short, intensive boot camps, which address mind-sets and behaviors alongside technical skills, with mentorship, community, and social-support services,” explains Mona Mourshed, a senior partner at McKinsey who leads Generation. “By measuring data, we’ve shown that their incomes increase two to six times and that 88 percent of employers say Generation graduates outperform their peers. We’ve also shown that we can do this at a cost which is 50 to 80 percent less than similar programs in each country.”

Today, Generation operates in more than 100 global locations, across 47 cities, and in 15 different professions, including digital marketing, insurance sales, healthcare assistant, and retail-cashier roles. In a little over 2 years, it has become the world’s largest youth-employment program of its kind, which both trains young people and places them in jobs.

“From the beginning, one of our ambitions has always been to build something that is scalable, which can make a meaningful reduction in global levels of youth unemployment,” says Mona. “That’s why I’m excited about our new partnership with United Way, an organization with a distinguished, long history of building stronger communities across the world.”

“United Way brings deep knowledge of local education and employment landscapes in the communities where they work, as well as fundraising capabilities and relationships with local employers. Generation offers a proven new approach, curriculum, quality assurance, and impact measurement. In combination, we think this will be a powerful partnership.”

United Way is the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit. It works to better education, incomes, and health across more than 40 countries.

“We’ve been fighting to create opportunities for young people in communities for 130 years,” said Brian Gallagher, United Way Worldwide president and CEO. “Right now, people are focused on getting good jobs, making ends meet, and moving up the economic ladder. Generation offers an exciting new way for us to build on our existing work, extend the program to new cities around the world, and help thousands more young people find jobs and careers.”

For Jessica, balancing work and family life is still a challenge: she works 12-hour shifts and needs to carefully watch her finances to manage expenses. However, after only 6 months working as a CNA, she believes her financial future is brighter than before. “I’m not living paycheck to paycheck anymore,” she says. “I can do more things now with my children than I could before, and we’ve done some fun activities together as a family. Also, this is my first job with paid vacation. I hadn’t even been working at the hospital for a year but I got 15 paid days off, so we took a vacation.”

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