As a native of Richmond, California, I am acutely aware of the challenges young men of color face growing up in the Bay Area. When I walked through the doors of the Oakland Convention Center on October 17, to attend the BAYEP Career Summit, I was thrilled to see hundreds of young people lined up, anxiously waiting to be interviewed. It was a reminder that as a leader of color, I have a responsibility to ensure that every young person who wants to work has equitable access to a career with a future.

To achieve this, a strategic alliance called the Bay Area Young Men of Color Employment Partnership (BAYEP) was formed in 2016 between LeadersUp, the Bay Area Council, PolicyLink and the Urban Strategies Council. BAYEP was created to activate a diverse network of partners committed to connecting young men of color (YMoC) to the growing Bay Area labor market and provide ongoing talent development support. This year, BAYEP returned to the Oakland Convention Center with a new partner, Bay Area United Way.Thanks to the tremendous support of the Lumina Foundation along with the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), Kaiser Permanente, James Irvine Foundation, Prudential, Microsoft and LinkedIn, together we formed a deeper commitment to connecting young men and Opportunity Youth who are African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian Pacific Islander to sustainable careers.

Twenty top employers, including AT&T, Lyft, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Noah’s Bagels, Marriott Hotels, and the AHLA provided tips on career exploration. Some hired on the spot. Prior to the Summit, which drew 350 attendees, LeadersUp partnered with Bay Area community organizations to host a series of career training workshops to help young adults successfully prepare for interviews. I want to thank the Laney College Center for Employment Opportunities and Richmond WORKS/East Bay Works for their incredible support. With their help, more than 300 young adults attended career development trainings and secured job interviews, like Darren Sasser. The college student received multiple job offers on the spot. He attended LeadersUp’s pre-training sessions hosted by the Youth Employment Partnership.

Darren Sasser at Youth Employment Partnership for the LeadersUp Pre-Summit Career Training.

“I found the training to be helpful,” Darren said. “I definitely learned a lot about the P.O.W.E.R. skills, especially R: relationships and teamwork. I’m finishing up my schooling with a communications degree, so I feel that connecting with people and asking questions are important assets that I need to continue to (learn how to) use.”

Darren left the Summit with job offers from Noah’s New York Bagels and Whole Foods.

“One of the struggles I will no longer face is having to live from month -to -month,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing things for myself, like paying my own bills.”

Over the next 12 to 18 months, BAYEP will provide ongoing support to hiring partners and mentorship for the new hires and young adults.

Darren is a success story, but he and the nearly 300 young people who received job offers that day must not be the exceptions to the youth unemployment crisis. They must be the rule.

We were very grateful to have Mayor Tom Butt from Richmond join us at the breakfast and the pinning ceremony to congratulate and support young adults before their one-on-one interviews. Having local political leaders like Mayor Butt and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf encourage the young adults was a meaningful component of the summit and it validated our efforts to connect Opportunity Youth to career pathways throughout the Bay Area.

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