The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it in ways that we couldn’t have imagined. My heart goes out to those who are sick, who’ve lost loved ones, the medical and retail professionals who are working at great risk to themselves, and the businesses that have been negatively impacted due to decreased spending and social distancing, which is necessary if we’re to flatten the curve of contagion.

Amid the uncertainty, our mission at LeadersUp continues. While it is essential that we comply with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Safer at Home” emergency order, it is also more important now than ever that we stay connected. Opportunities still exist. Employers are still hiring, and we’re here to help our young people get ready to interview for and succeed in those jobs.

COVID-19 has challenged us to be more thoughtful and innovative in our approaches, and LeadersUp has an app for that. It’s called the Future@Work CONNECTED and provides free access to competent career readiness training and coaching that can be deployed virtually while our young people are out of school and stuck at home. It’s a viable solution for our talent development partners working in high schools and in the justice system. We’re offering Train the Trainer webinars so they can stay connected and deliver our soft skills curriculum to the young people they are charged with serving through the app and online.

We made a conscious decision to deepen our digital presence a year ago. We believe in diverse young talent and will be hyper-focused on bridging the opportunity and the digital divides so they will continue to have access to opportunity.

We’re already in a global recession that will inform a national recession. An estimated 80 million U.S. jobs are at risk. More than 75 percent of 16–-24-year-olds are hourly employees who are at greater risk of being laid off. This age group was disproportionately impacted during the recession of 2008, when unemployment among young adults was 5 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate. What’s more, African Americans were the only cohort of Opportunity Youth whose disconnection rates rose in the past year. We must work together to ensure that their already disparate circumstances aren’t deepened by this crisis.

We are committed to standing in the opportunity gap to minimize the harm that our global response to COVID-19 could inflict long term on young job seekers, employers, our talent development partners and our economy. I assure you that businesses are just as concerned about accessing talent through these trying times. While some industries are reporting huge layoffs and financial challenges, others are seeing an increase in demand for new workers to meet growing demand for the transport of consumer goods, as well as medical supplies to treat coronavirus victims and protect healthcare workers.

At LeadersUp, we have curated a value-added ecosystem that connects employers with the untapped potential of diverse, next generation talent at our annual Future at Work Summits in Los Angeles, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. Large-scale events are not an option, presently. But we are optimistic that forward-thinking employers, workforce development professionals and educators who understand that Opportunity Youth add value to the labor market will continue to work with us virtually during this time of crisis.

When the world is in panic mode, the people who have the least are often, inadvertently, left out of the conversation. We’re committed to advocating for Opportunity Youth and extending our social capital to build pathways to economic mobility and ensuring that opportunity markets are still viewed as a viable force to advance equity.

At LeadersUp, we are distinguished by our cultural competency and our ability to speak the language of business and communicate to the community effectively. We’ll get through this! But it’s going to require us all to be vigilant and hyper-focused on the mission. Let’s wrap our arms around our young people. Encourage them to download the Future@Work CONNECTED app and make good use of this time by working on their resumes and elevator pitches and bossing up their LinkedIn profiles. While we acknowledge the severity of the COVID-19 situation, we embrace the opportunity to evolve as a team and as an organization, and to amplify our commitment to humanity as compassionate individuals.

Jeffery T. D. Wallace is President and CEO of LeadersUp, a nonprofit talent development accelerator that bridges the divide between the untapped potential of young people and the business challenge of finding and keeping the best talent. Youth talent development specialists interested in our soft skills training, please contact our Chief of Staff John Roberson III at [email protected]. Are you an employer in LA County who’s hiring? If so, please contact our business development manager Katie Ho at [email protected]