Opening doors for youths

Opening doors for youths

Help for young people struggling to find jobs

About 74 million youths worldwide are looking for jobs and can’t find one—and that’s just one part of a larger youth-unemployment story: 290 million 15- to 24-year- olds are neither working nor going to school, according to the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency. That’s a lot of lives and careers on hold.

What can companies do to help? One effort from Hilton Worldwide might serve as an example. Hilton has committed to helping one million young people prepare for the workforce in the next five years, by 2019. (That’s Hilton’s 100th anniversary.) Its plan, called “Open Doors,” includes some approaches that other companies can consider in their own programs.


Hilton Worldwide has more than 300,000 employees in over 4,000 locations. “Open Doors” was launched in January’s World Economic Forum and involves scaling up existing programs and partnerships to the point where they reach one million people. These include:

  • Life skills and soft skills training. Hilton works with the International Youth Foundation (IYF) as part of its Passport to Success program, using its curricula to provide Saudi Arabian and South African youth the soft skills training that is necessary in the hospitality industry.
  • Mentorship and career preparation programs. At the 2012 World Economic Forum, the company launched Bright Blue Futures, a program that encourages its team members to donate their time and expertise to mentor and support young people.
  • Apprenticeship programs. These work readiness and training programs are conducted at Hilton’s properties across Europe and Asia. More than 95 percent of the program’s participants secured permanent employment, and its popularity has encouraged additional programs in culinary arts and other hotel departments.

Hilton also encourages its properties to develop relationships with local NGOs, schools, youth programs and universities.

The travel and tourism industry employs more than any other single industry worldwide, accounting for nearly
10 percent jobs globally. The industry is growing and is expected to add 73 million jobs between now and 2022— almost the same number of total youth unemployed today. While no one expects one-to-one hiring, a key objective is to promote jobs in hospitality.

What you can do

What takeaways can other companies draw from this program? Consider the following:

1. Think global, act local. The saying goes, “All politics is local.” Similarly, a big global program by necessity must break down into thousands of local relationships. Local managers are more likely to best know which schools to approach, which youth programs to become involved in, and how to leverage local networks.

2. Build first, then scale. It took several years for Hilton to grow existing programs and relationships, and to reach out to as many resources as possible, including its own employees and local organizations. Once the pieces were in place, the company was in a better condition to scale its efforts across its network and create ambitious goals.

3. Assume you might have to start at the beginning. Any mentorship programs may have to involve some basic life skills. Your organization may not be prepared for that, but you can partner with organizations that do provide that kind of skills training (see Spotlight.)

Spotlight: Awareness and skills-training

Hilton Worldwide’s Jennifer Silberman, vice president of corporate responsibility, discusses two key elements of the company’s plan to help one million youths worldwide by 2019:

1. Build awareness. Awareness of opportunities in the hospitality industry varies by culture and country.
“In a lot of places around the world, hospitality is not seen as a sector or an industry where there’s upward mobility. But it’s one of the few places where you can go from being a busboy or a concierge and rise through the ranks. We have stories from properties around the world of people that have started their careers at 17 or 18
years of age and 30 years later are in leadership positions, whether it’s at a global level or at their hotel as general managers.

“The diversity of opportunities in the hospitality industry is quite broad. For example, if you are interested in finance, there are opportunities for you in our industry. The experience you gain by working at a hotel could take you elsewhere as well: food & beverage, facilities management, marketing, and customer service.”

How does Hilton create this awareness? Career fairs and reaching out to local educational institutions, plus apprenticeship and mentoring programs. “They may not necessarily lead to direct employment at our hotels, but they are a way of preparing the next generation of young people to be able to learn about different careers and also learn about opportunities in our industry.”

2. Strengthen skills. There’s a well-known “talent gap,” or disconnect between employer expectations and the skill level of youths entering the job market.

“In our industry, where we see this gap the most pronounced is with life skills and soft skills. As with many industries, we can train you for the technical side of a job. But we need you to be able to take personal responsibility, we need you to have interpersonal skills, we need you to be able to make decisions. In this industry, the only way you can recover a service issue or problem for a guest is by being proactive and by being creative.

“We’re finding that when team members lack those life skills, it has a huge impact on how well they’re going to be able to resolve those issues for our guests. We want young people especially to be able to have those skills coming in: Work ethic and personal responsibility are make-it or break- it in our industry.

“In order to train people on these basic life skills, we’ve developed critical partnerships with International Youth Foundation and other NGOs. Right now we’re looking at the adaptation of a curriculum that we can make available to our hotels, to young people, to community organizations, and to schools to ensure that those life skills are part of the broader education that these young people are getting. That way, they’re prepared not only to work for us, but also for society at large.”

Posted April 27, 2014 in 25115