COVID-19 | Flatten the Curve, Bridge the Divide

Dear Community,

The coronavirus has changed life as we know it in ways that we couldn’t have imagined. My heart goes out to those who are sick, people who’ve lost loved ones, the medical professionals helping others 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.

We’re thinking of you during this difficult time, and hope that you and your loved ones are doing well as we adjust to new realities. At LeadersUp, we have taken precautions to ensure the safety of our staff, allowing our team members to work remotely.

Amid the uncertainty, our mission continues. 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, as individuals, and innovative as an organization in our approaches. But we believe we’ve got what it takes to make it happen. Most importantly, we believe in diverse young talent and will be hyper-focused on bridging the opportunity divide so they’ll continue to have access to opportunity.

The economic forecasts are concerning, with predictions of a recession and possibly a depression due to decreased demand, spending, and impending layoffs. Some estimate that 80 million U.S. jobs are at risk. During the recession of 2008, unemployment among young adults was 5 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate. We anticipate that young persons of color from low-income households will be among the hardest hit Americans.

Flattening the curve and bridging the opportunity divide

We must work together to ensure that their already disparate circumstances aren’t deepened by this crisis. 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. However, we have been agile in creating solutions to address the challenges presented by old and new realities. 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.

In alignment with our Vision 2020 three-year strategic plan, we have designed digital tools to expand our outreach to job seekers and employers and will accelerate our deployment of digital assets that prepare, connect and advance young adults to careers, as well as evolve the way employers recruit, retain and advance talent.

Mitigating the digital divide for the next generation of diverse talent

It is imperative that our young people have digital access to training and opportunities to "flatten the curve" and prepare them for the world of work. The LeadersUp Insights Team recently surveyed nearly 10,000 young adults ages 18-29 to get a sense of their digital connectivity and discovered significant gaps. Just 52% have access to high-speed internet at home; 65% had their mobile data plan disconnected for up to two months within the last six months; and 35% use their cell phone as a computer. As we ramp up efforts to provide ongoing career coaching and professional development, the digital divide is one of the biggest barriers to young adults leveraging technology to maximize their potential. We welcome any resources and connections you might have to help us bridge the gaps.

Where the jobs are

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. In the Chicago area, Amazon is looking to hire 1,000-plus workers to staff up its new warehouse to meet increased demand for the transport of consumer goods, as well as medical supplies to treat coronavirus victims and protect healthcare workers.

That said, 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 during this time of crisis.

We’ll get through this – together

When the world is in panic mode, the people who have the least, inadvertently, are often left out of the conversation. We’re committed to advocating for Opportunity Youth and extending our social capital to build pathways to economic mobility. We have a strong board that is enabling us to operationalize digital solutions so that we may continue to be a leader in this space, while ensuring that opportunity markets are still viewed as a viable force to advance equity.

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. 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. Thank you for your support and commitment to LeadersUp and the communities and people we serve.

For Our Future,

Jeffery T. D. Wallace

President & CEO


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