To Be The Future

How well are we preparing young people?

GUEST COLUMN | by Brian Nethero

There are 4.9 million young Americans neither working nor in school, including 12.3% of teens and young adults, as of 2015, according to Measure of America.

Also, daily in the news are announcements about job vacancies or underprepared new hires starting their careers.

While this is an oversimplification, it leaves us scratching our heads wondering how we have many job vacancies and young people hungry to build their futures at the same time.

Imagine you are young person…

Imagine you are a young person, between the ages of 16 and 24, and you have never had a job.

You want a promising career and are willing to work to build it; but, perhaps you are not in school and don’t have many resources available to guide you towards employment and self-sustainability. Imagine you’re one of the millions of opportunity youth in the United States who face this reality every day.

“The amazing population of ‘opportunity youth’ that exist all across our country are a tremendous resource to acknowledge, affirm, and include as we imagine what’s next for our society.”

As employers, hiring managers, and citizens, we must acknowledge this truth and set ourselves, and our future, up to thrive despite these challenges.

A little help, please

Thankfully, there are many incredible organizations all over the country working to support opportunity youth in building the futures they deserve. Dozens of these organizations make up the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, a national coalition of employers and community-based organizations working to organize and scale efforts to empower and impact opportunity youth.

Through generous support from the Schultz Family Foundation, EdPlus at Arizona State University (ASU) is thrilled to add something new and unique to these efforts by leveraging technology and expertise in open, online learning. Just last month, the Edge initiative launched. This project aims to provide opportunity youth with an engaging, accessible training curriculum to flexibly support job attainment, career advancement, and personal development. Through this no-cost training, youth beginning or in the early stages of their career will gain foundational professional skills that make them better equipped to serve. In turn, managers will be able to recruit and retain employees more ready for their first job.

Gaining an Edge on life

The team at ASU intends to establish Edge as a valuable training for anyone entering the service sector through collaborating with engaged youth-serving organizations and employers. While there are other industry standards forming in the retail field as well as the restaurant field, we imagine that Edge will be able to complement these existing trainings and by being sector agnostic, appeal to a variety of different types of employers from a variety of fields.

The full Edge curriculum will consist of up to 30 modules, or short bite-sized chunks of learning that are engaging and of relevance to anyone in a first-time service role. Each interactive learning experience will cover a specific topic in about 30 minutes, such as “Active Listening” or “Developing a Professional Image”.

3 domains, 6 topics

Below is an overview of our 3 domains and 6 topics which organize this content.

All material will be developed from a strong foundational curriculum developed by Schultz Family Foundation, with support from Starbucks Coffee Company and YouthBuild, along with subject matter expertise from ASU to identify updates and revisions for this new focus.

Ultimately, all of Edge will be delivered mobile-first through a gamified learning experience.

Edge Curriculum Overview:

Throughout the modules, youth will learn about a concept and then directly apply their learning through interactives in the mobile applications.

Further, Edge will include resources for employers and hiring managers who are onboarding and supporting new employees. These resources will focus on best practices when it comes to new hires and how to support and nurture future leaders in the most effective, impactful ways.

A tremendous resource

The amazing population of opportunity youth that exist all across our country are a tremendous resource to acknowledge, affirm, and include as we imagine what’s next for our society.

We’re excited to be a part of empowering this future generation with just-in-time, just-for-me, freely available resources through Edge.

We can’t do this alone! Become a part of the Edge movement by creating your free account today at or contact us at

Brian Nethero is Project Manager for Edge with EdPlus at Arizona State University.


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