Cultivating successful career pathways to transform the lives of opportunity youth

Adolescence is a time of heightened potential and risk. With significant brain development occurring well into a person’s 20s, strong evidence exists that a first job experience can influence the trajectory of a teen’s future. Youth employment has been shown to affect an individual’s overall economic well-being, including potential for increased earnings, support of transitions to post-secondary education, decreased justice system involvement, and the fostering of psychological health and positive relationships.

For so long this population of young people has suffered the rippled effects of youth disconnection, disconnected from educational and gainful employment opportunities. In spite of their disadvantages, social inequities, and adversities these young people still aspire to do great things and obtain success. Their resiliency and life experiences enables them to learn, grow and contribute to society for beyond imagination, if only potential was met with chance and opportunity.

  • Ryan Dalton, opportunity youth in New Orleans

Responding to the high number of opportunity youth in Orleans parish, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Hospitality Workforce Development Program seeks to improve the life trajectory of young people through a focus not only on career placement, but also career advancement. With nearly 15 percent of youth in New Orleans facing significant economic instability and disconnection, young people struggle to find and retain employment with potential beyond entry-level positions. The challenges they face are systemic and substantial— and so are the solutions.

By partnering with local organizations as well as national programs that support the New Orleans community, the Foundation is working to elevate the perception of the hospitality industry and propel systemic change to support stronger career pathways for opportunity youth. Together with our partners, we share a vision for the future of New Orleans— one in which all young people have the opportunity to thrive in economically sustaining, fulfilling careers.

The Foundation’s approach to the hospitality workforce development program includes:

  • Investing in quality pathways to build well-defined career pathways that match training, education and supportive services needs to what youth need; establish wrap-around supports that enable youth to thrive as they pursue career advancement; and increase the capacity of education and workforce development programs to better serve opportunity youth
  • Elevating the industry to transform the perceptions of key stakeholders; develop feedback mechanisms between the hospitality industry and workforce providers; and document and disseminate best practices for workforce development with opportunity youth
  • Changing existing systems to encourage alignment and efficiency in public and private systems, including engaging employers to help identify and meet the industry’s true needs; create a community of champions who are active partners in supporting opportunity youth; and coordinate workforce delivery mechanisms and funding sources to help investments in the sector make greater impact
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