- Leila Toplic, LRNG CMO, @ltoplic

Today’s job market is tough for young people. Too many teens and young adults are un- or underemployed, even if they have a college degree. Meanwhile, 38% of employers last year reported on the annual ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage Survey that they had jobs they couldn’t fill because applicants lacked the right skill sets. Now more than ever, employers have a key role to play in closing the skill gap for our nation’s youth.

I’m excited to share how LRNG has teamed up with one of our employer partners Gap Inc. to help reverse the trend.

The partnership has created The Business, an online LRNG Playlist that draws from Gap Inc.’s Plan Ahead college and career-readiness curriculum. Plan Ahead has been a required course for 9th graders in the San Francisco Unified School district since 2010 and has a proven track record of success.

By starting with young people’s interests, The Business shows young people how they can connect their passions to a purpose. The Playlist is an ideal way to reach a broad audience of youth who may not be thinking about college or career.

“We believe all young people deserve the opportunity to succeed in work and in life,” said Dan Henkle, Senior Vice President, Global Sustainability, Gap Inc. “By partnering with LRNG, we are able to bring our Plan Ahead curriculum to young people across the country to help them make informed decisions about their futures.”

LRNG is partnering with Gap Inc. and other corporate and nonprofit partners to create a series of themed Playlists that create engaging, interest-driven opportunities for young people to develop high-demand competencies and skills.

The first Playlist to roll out this summer, The Business focuses on self-discovery for youth. It aims to shift the focus back to that simple but powerful question: What do you want to be when you “grow up”?

Ask any youth what they are into, and you likely will get a long list of hobbies and interests, from photography or video games to fashion design or art. But the passions that drive youth at a pivotal creative age are not always connected to clear paths to a job or career.

The Business changes the notion that youth can’t turn their interests into a “real job” by  introducing Reggieknow, creative director of Fashion Figure Inc, who turned his passions for hip-hop culture, fashion and illustration into a successful career.

A Chicago native, Reggieknow tells youth that his path to success wasn’t always easy, but through hard work and self-discovery, he was able to turn his interests into a career, having gone on to execute creative work for the Sprite campaign and working with some of the biggest rap icons in the business.

After inspiring youth by connecting them to a real-life success story, The Business introduces young people to life planning and reflection; soft skills for success; and the power of community volunteering. Through mood boards and organizational resources, the Playlist helps youth realize that their personality has a direct relation to the types of jobs that are best for them.

Upon completion of The Business, youth earn the Gap Inc. Badge to document their learning. The digital badge can be added to their online portfolio, resume, and soon their LinkedIn profile. Just this week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors encouraged cities nationwide to use digital badges and the LRNG badging framework for workforce development and employment.

By transforming job readiness topics into fun, engaging online experiences, The Business helps young people envision how they can apply their talents in the real world,“ said Dan Henkle, Senior Vice President, Global Sustainability, Gap Inc. “We’re pleased to help young people across the country spend the summer planning ahead for a bright future.”

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