WASHINGTON – The McDonald’s Corporation, in collaboration with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), announced a $200,000 investment in Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C. to expand its Youth Opportunity Initiative on July 18.
The Youth Opportunity Initiative is a pre-employment initiative that includes job readiness training, employment opportunities, and workplace development. The goal is to reduce barriers to employment for two million young people by 2025.
“They train young individuals to get ready for the workforce so that they are going in with skills already learned,” said Carlos Mateos Jr., a local McDonald’s franchise owner.
“They’re training them in specific job skills and interviewing and different things like that because the biggest hurdle that they have to jump over is getting into the workforce and not having that experience and the skills that experience builds.”
The initiative began as a pilot program in Chicago a year ago and has exceeded expectations with at least 4,200 young people trained in job skills since its implementation.
Now expanding to the D.C. area, McDonald’s has partnered with local organizations, the Maryland 4-H Foundation, the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) and the LAYC Career Academy, to train at least 1,000 youth and help them to develop the competencies and the confidence that employers are looking for in entry-level employees.
According to Measure of America, 63,900 young people in D.C. and the surrounding area face barriers to employment and education, said Jonathan Mudd from IYF.
Through the Youth Opportunity Initiative, McDonald’s and local partnerships will use a specialized version of the IYF’s Passport To Success curriculum to provide young people valuable soft skills such as self-awareness and management, communication, problem solving and conflict management.
“Working through local partners is core to IYF’s operating model, we believe that the most effective and sustainable youth development programs are those developed with deep knowledge of the local context and implemented by local organizations that already know where to tap into networks of local youth,” said Mudd.
Following their participation in the program, job opportunities at company-owned and franchised McDonald’s restaurants may consider them for job openings. Graduates from the training will also be able to pursue education and employment opportunities with potential employers across industries such as healthcare, supply chain logistics and information technology.
Looking at the partnership with McDonald’s in the context of a global youth unemployment crisis, IYF sees the Youth Opportunity Initiative as an enormous opportunity, Mudd said. Although the 4.9 million young people in the U.S. not engaged in education or employment and the 43% of employers report being able to find qualified entry-level candidates to fill their needs is a huge disconnect, the hope is that the partnership will go a long way in the end.
“Partnerships like this one with McDonald’s can go a long way toward that end,” Mudd said. “In D.C. and Prince George’s County, in the USA, and around the world, we are committed to bridging connections between education systems, communities and employers; ensuring that young people gain social-emotional intelligence, as well as academic, professional and technical skills; and working with local employers and communities to reduce the skills gap to create thriving economies.”
The Maryland 4-H Foundation, which operates under the University of Maryland Extension, will be teaming up with McDonald’s and IYF to create a Workforce Success Program.
The national organization that runs under a community of 100 public universities works to give kids mentors and encourage them to become leaders in their community. With their newest program here in Prince George’s County through the Youth Opportunity Initiative, the idea is for the Workforce Success Program to be different than typical workforce development programs.
“A lot of those types of programs will target resume building, job searches and interview skills, just ways to get a job,” said 4-H Staff Member Alex Chan. “Ours will focus on workplace success, like once you get that job, how to do hold onto it and keep it.”
Meanwhile, the LAYC will be working to administer the Passport to Success program. With that, the LAYC will build off of their existing programs, such as a summer program where they assist with workforce development.
“Some of our programming is geared towards getting young people who are currently out of school, our of work, and maybe some people who were recently transitioning back into society after being incarcerated,” said LAYC Communications Director Spencer Perry. “We’re having this programming that is serving as a bridge for them.”
Between 4-H and the LAYC, there is one thing in common that they want those in the program to achieve: confidence.
Factors such as housing, jobs and education can be major challenges that stand between young people thriving and getting to adulthood, Perry said. At the LAYC, they hope to equip people with the skills necessary to overcome barriers and be successful.
“It’s going to equip people with the skills that the second they get in front of someone who is interviewing them for a job they will feel ready and they will feel confident,” Perry said.
Mateos said he participated in a separate summer youth program and said the results were extremely positive. From his experience, he sees the Youth Opportunity Initiative being very beneficial to the county.
“For McDonald’s to put in $200,000 is amazing,” Mateos said. “To help 1,000 kids, and that’s just the goal. We’ll see how many we can get to and hopefully surpass our goal