LeadersUp gives opportunity to combat the issue of youth unemployment.
Jeffery Wallace is giving employment opportunities to young adults throughout Los Angeles through his program, LeadersUp.
What started as just an idea through Starbucks has grown into a $3.8 million non-profit organization with locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. LeadersUp works with youth, ages 18 to 24 to prepare them for employment with companies including FedEx, AT&T, Target and more. Not only does the organization connect the youth with employment, but it also works with the young adults for a year after being employed to help them stay employed and move up in the companies.
“In August of 2013, there were a couple of executives at Starbucks who were interested in launching an initiative to address youth unemployment and they asked me to participate in their design,” said Wallace. “It turned out to be an informal interview and they wanted me to build the program with $1 million.”
Wallace grew up in Richmond, CA but came to Los Angeles to study music at UCLA. He went on to obtain a master’s degree at UC Berkeley and started working with the Los Angeles Urban League. All of his experiences led him to knowing that he had to give opportunities to youth who grew up in some of the same circumstances as he.
“I was always told that I was the exception, but our people and our communities of color all have talent. It’s about the opportunity,” said Wallace. “There’s talent in these urban communities that companies are overlooking. I knew that if we could create a solution, that it would be both impactful and beneficial to the young people and the employers.”
LeadersUp works with programs throughout Los Angeles, including Brotherhood Crusade and Para Los Niños. They come in and start a weeklong workshop for the young people interested. This workshop teaches the youth everything they need to know about the company they will be interviewing for, as well power skills, including effective communication, perseverance, strong work ethic and the ability to build relationships.
After finishing the process, the young people take an assessment and if they have a passing score, they go on to interview with the employer. During the first 90 days of employment, LeadersUp works with the young adults to help them retain employment through providing transportation, childcare, proper work attire and someone to speak with regarding different challenging experiences. The organization then works with the youth for another 12-to-18 months on creating a career and education outline, so that they can move up in the company.
“This strategy is not just about charity, but also the business and economic benefits. LA cannot survive if we don’t get to these 200,000 young people, who are not in school and not working,” said Wallace. “Every employer is interested in placing them on a career pathway that leads to a higher role. A lot of our work is not only making sure that the young people can get in, but that they stay in and move up in the company.”
The youth who have worked with LeadersUp continue to move up in their companies and some have even created businesses of their own. In just four years, the organization has grown to almost four times the profit of when they started, and has helped hundreds of youth find employment, and given the employers tremendous talent and resources.
“Being able to provide the young people with some hope, some opportunity and some support is not only going to be transformative for them, it’s going to be transformative for their kids, their families, their neighborhoods and their peers,” said Wallace.
For more information about LeadersUp, visit www.leadersup.org.