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Top US companies have joined together to launch “100,000 Opportunities,” a program that plans to hire and train 100,000 “opportunity” youth—16-24 year olds who face systemic barriers to jobs and education—with training programs and full and part-time employment.

The companies involved also plan to partner with a handful of cities to collaborate and leverage existing programs.  Founding companies include Alaska Airlines, Cintas, CVS Health, Hilton Worldwide, HMSHost, JCPenney, JPMorgan Chase, Lyft, Macy’s, Microsoft, Porch.com, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.

On August 13 the program will host an Opportunity Fair & Forum for Opportunity Youth in Chicago that will have the ambitious goal of providing training to more than 2,000 participants and making on-the-spot job offers to at least 200.  The overall goal for the program is to enlist more member companies and reach a collective national goal of engaging 100,000 youth by 2018.

In the US alone, there are currently 5.6 million youth in the age group 16-24 who are out of school and not working.  There are, at the same time, 3.5 million unfilled “middle skill”  jobs in the US that do not require a 4-year degree.  The program expects to fill the knowledge, information and communication gap that hinders candidates from finding opportunities, fill the pipeline with talent and make a major impact on the economy.

The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions will orchestrate the initiative and build on the work of its Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund which is already supporting collaborative efforts around the country through its OYIF Opportunity Works program.