The New Options Project is an initiative to establish new ways of connecting out-of-school, out-of-work young people, ages 16-24, with meaningful career opportunities. Through innovations at alternative schools, community-based organizations, and work-training programs, New Options helps young people gain marketable skills and build bridges to employers eager for a more prepared workforce.
Shedding the “one size fits all” approach, New Options spurs action plans and prototypes that offer new pathways to employment. It does this through two critical ways; first, it engages the untapped talent of those out of school and not working, and second, it shifts perceptions around what is possible, thereby providing a new model that is valued by employers, educators and young people.
This initiative directly supports the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s focus on vulnerable children ages 0-8, realizing that many out-of-school, out-of-work young adults are parents of vulnerable children, or were vulnerable children themselves that were left behind by the traditional K-12 system. New Options aims to break cycles of dual-generation economic insecurity for both parents and their children.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is not accepting proposals against the $27.9 million already committed to this initiative.
The dropout dilemma in our country has become an epidemic. According to the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education, each year since 1985, 4 million young people aged 16 – 24 are not enrolled in or fail to complete high school.
Out-of-school young adults, who are also out of work, are more likely to have parents who also did not graduate from high school and are 2.5 to 3 times more likely to have children. This enduring pattern has economic repercussions for their families as well as the country at-large. In 2008, the United States lost almost $319 billion in lifetime wages that could have been earned by high school dropouts who were failed by the system.
Many young adults are unable to further their education in a traditional learning environment, but are still motivated, interested in career success, and seeking jobs that match their talents and interests. Currently, few alternatives exist for young adults who have not achieved the conventional idea of educational and career success.
At the same time, many employers are lacking the talent they need for entry-level positions. The New Options Project addresses both sides of this universal problem: battling unemployment among young adults who are outside the system and meeting the demands of employers who require a qualified, entry-level workforce.
Often failed by the system, out-of-school, out-of-work young people face barriers to entering the workforce, and their demonstrated skills are often unseen or unrecognized by employers. A perception shift is necessary to recognize their untapped talent.
Stakeholders include young adults, employers, community-based organizations, policymakers, foundations and other market investors.
New Options funds innovative tools and approaches by spearheading a venture capital investment strategy.
In addition, a zone strategy is in place to allow innovations that address two sides of a universal problem: breaking down barriers to employment among young people and meeting the demands of employers who require a qualified, entry-level workforce.
The four work zones test new ways of creating incentives for stakeholders to work together differently and identify barriers to meaningful career opportunities. Each zone – selected for its higher-than-average percentage of disconnected young adults – seeks to establish scalable approaches and products through the support of national movement-building and social media initiatives that influence how young people are perceived by employers and society.
While each zone has a distinct hypothesis, all zones share communication tools, partnership opportunities, a commitment to shared knowledge, a plan for rigorous evaluation and the goal of achieving a national shift in perception and action.