There was a purposeful energy and determination at LeadersUp’s Chicago Career 360: The Experience. Young adults from across the Chicagoland region came to the Lacuna Artist Lofts to not only search for employment but to identify gateways to new possibilities. Our team connected every young adult in attendance to interview opportunities with employers in the transportation, distribution and logistics sector. Our employer partners included title sponsors C.H. Robinson, FedEx Freight and FedEx Express, plus SCR Medical Transportation, Becker Logistics and United Airlines. All five companies offered on-the-spot hiring and career exploration for nearly 100 attendees.

Prior to the hiring event, we prepared participants by conducting mock interview sessions and sharpened their essential career readiness skills through our BrandUp P.O.W.E.R. Skills curriculum. Many of those who took part in our training sessions, like 23-year-old Kymonee Cannon (above), a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago, secured multiple job offers.

“I got the job with C.H. Robinson and Becker Logistics. I felt like this event wanted to help people who wanted to come, people who wanted to make a difference in their life. My biggest inspiration is my son. I came to the event because I wanted to better my chances of finding my career and better my life.”

Kymonee Cannon, LeadersUp Alum

Chicago Career 360 was our first experiential hiring event. (Check out the video). In addition to receiving expert advice, attendees participated in mock interviews, LinkedIn Learning modules, got healthy food tips from the Fresh Moves Mobile Market, and accessed the Grads of Life’s experiential booth, where they learned how to succinctly connect their life experiences to the needs of employers.

Providing a launching pad for young adults who often face hiring biases due to a lack of experience was a core component of Chicago Career 360.

Together with Skill Scout, a talent platform and disrupter in Chicago, we were able to develop hands-on activities tailored to each of the employers’ open positions. Young adults demonstrated their resolve by not just interviewing but authentically demonstrating their skills for employers. This innovative interviewing format allowed candidates to truly experience what each position demanded, while also allowing companies to see what candidates were able to do. The result was a more effective hiring match.

“I loved the Skill Scout component,” Kymonee said. “It helped set the expectations for the jobs.”

When asked about the importance of the experiential interviewing at Chicago Career 360, Angie Freeman, C.H. Robinson’s chief human resources officer said,

“This is a game changer. We get a better picture of each candidate’s current skill sets and future potential. Equally important, the candidates get a realistic job preview and a better understanding of the preliminary skills required to be successful in the role. This stronger alignment between job seekers and the hiring manager is critical to a successful fit.”

Measuring the Talent-Divide to Create Sustainable Impact

The road to Chicago Career 360 consisted of a series of defining events with stakeholders, employers and young adults. Our goal was to gain insight into Chicago’s youth unemployment landscape and provide solutions to the talent divide. In partnership with Measure of America, a research and advocacy project of the Social Science Research Council, we distilled initial findings and released a white paper on the employment challenges facing Chicago youth and the viable opportunities to stem this crisis through employer-led hiring initiatives. Download the full report and check out highlights from the innovation session in this video.

Opportunity Beyond Jobs for Chicago’s Young Adults

We know that the barriers to employment faced by young adults are systemic and will require public-private investment and collaboration to overcome. Throughout the day, young adults had the opportunity to receive expert advice, resources and tips through the “Views and Power Moves” workshop circuit. In this curated guest speaker experience, individuals learned about vital new skills; financial literacy; entrepreneurship, and how to maintain a healthy life balance.

“I really enjoyed the workshops. I felt I was getting thought-provoking messages,” Kymonee said. “I also enjoyed hearing from professionals who acknowledged the problems we have in Chicago. To have someone come in that wants to help—that wants to see you succeed—means a lot. They made me feel prepared for the interviews.”

The Path Forward

One event for the more than 140,000 Opportunity Youth (ages 16-24) in Chicago will not suffice. Helping young adults break free of the disparate economic outcomes due to underdeveloped professional and social skills is a shared responsibility. If left unaddressed, there will be severe consequences for our economy, our communities and our future. So often we view solving the talent divide solely through the lens of workforce development. It’s time we widen our lens and put humanity alongside workforce development. For business leaders grappling with building talent pipelines but do not know where to begin, for community leaders earnestly striving to prepare youth to succeed with limited resources, and for young adults resiliently pursuing their goals despite the unimaginable circumstances they may face, the time is now. We need to ensure we are meeting the real needs of each stakeholder, and it starts with you.

To the future,

Jeffery Wallace

President and CEO, LeadersUp