Major Jobs Fair Offers Opportunities To Thousands Of Youth

CHICAGO (CBS) — Leaders of some of the biggest companies in the country were at McCormick Place on Thursday, for what has been dubbed a catalyst for hiring programs and events.

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative – a joint partnership of more than two dozen companies – coordinated the so-called Opportunity Fair & Forum, targeting a section of the workforce that often is overlooked: young Americans in their teens and early 20s, who might be unaware of the steps required to secure employment.

An estimated 5.6 million Americans between age 16 and 24 are out of school, but not working. Oranizers said those young adults are an untapped resource who might not know about opportunities available to them.

More than 4,500 people pre-registered for the event.

Starbucks has said it will be offering 400 jobs on the spot.

Bianca Lindsey, 22, was among those who were prescreened, interviewed, and hired on the spot.

“I set that goal. I had that goal to just wow, wow, wow,” she said.

Starbucks is one of two dozen major brands teaming up to hire young people from struggling economic backgrounds, who might not realize the opportunities their companies can provide workers trying to get ahead.

“This is not about charity today. This is about really engaging young people; getting them on a pathway to success,” Starbucks chief community officer Blair Taylor said.

Taylor said Starbucks employees can rise to management within four years. The company also provides health benefits, a 401(k) plan, and a program that offers full college tuition.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for a young person to get some experience in the business world, and then use that as a stepping stone for the rest of their career; whether rising in a company like ours, or whether that’s moving on to another place,” he said.

Others hiring at the fair include Macy’s, T-Mobile, Abbott Labs, and Southwest Airlines.

Chicago is the debut city for the 100,00 Opportunities Initiative, which plans similar events for several other cities in the weeks ahead.

Organizers were pulling out all the stops to create an atmosphere of celebration.

Grammy and Oscar winning rapper Common was set to host a special afternoon session, along with special guest Chance the Rapper, and several surprise guests from the entertainment field.

Philanthropist Mellody Hobson, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and several other successful business people also will be on hand to offer their inspirational stories.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also will speak to the crowd.

The fair takes place from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., with the celebrations and motivational sessions starting immediately after.

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