In effort to really understand the opportunities and challenges to youth hiring on the part of small business owners, Small Business Majority conducted four focus groups (two in Denver and two in St. Louis) during the summer of 2014. Working with the research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, results showed that small business owners are quite concerned about the youth unemployment issue, and more importantly, are willing to play a role in providing meaningful opportunities for our nation's youth.
Focus groups revealed that small businesses face particular challenges when it comes to finding and retaining skilled workers. Not only do they lack the robust resources to create job-specific training programs, but they are also limited in their capacity to search and compete for, or relocate, the workers for the jobs they need to fill. Unsurprisingly, small business owners need support in finding strategies and solutions that leverage education and training resources at the local and regional levels.
Following the focus group research, Small Business Majority launched a national campaign called the Commitment to Youth Opportunity Initiative this past June. The campaign set a four-month goal of securing commitments from 100 small business owners around the country to offer youth employment pathway programs and opportunities such as mentorships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Within the first two weeks of the program, there were 40 commitments in hand, and presently, there are more than 160.
There has been great success with media and communications since announcing the project. It has earned 63 media hits, which include op-eds, letters to editor, and stories on the youth employment in various local and national media, including this MSNBC interview with Workforce Initiatives Manager Jarvez Hall. The commitment's social media campaign supported the opportunity youth webinars, as well as included general posts about the dedicated website, infographics, blog posts, and Google AdWords, all utilizing the hashtag "#smallbiz4youth."
Small Business Majority also created a website in order to aid the spreading of information about the Commitment to Youth Opportunity Initiative, and to provide small business owners with a simple way to make their pledge to support youth. To date, the Commitment to Opportunity Youth website (www.smallbiz4youth.com) has had over 1,800 unique visitors and more than 160 small business owners have used it to pledge their commitments to youth hiring.