Lessons Learned from Hosting a Job Fair and Forum With the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative

On March 3, 2017, Phoenix hosted our city’s first 100,000 Opportunities (100K) Fair and Forum. At the end of a long day, 149 young people had attended, and 44 had received job offers or conditional offers.
This event was a great opportunity for Phoenix. The 100,000 Initiative is a employer-led coalition focused on hiring opportunity youth that includes large national employers like JCPenney, Mars, Starbucks, and Target. The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is led by FSG and the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions.
In each city in which it operates, the 100K Initiative works with different local partners to organize large job fairs. The organization I run, ACYR (Arizona Call-A-Teen Youth Resources, Inc.) lead the pre-fair training Job Readiness Boot Camp. Over a five-hour period, we helped 40 opportunity youth prepare for their interviews the following day, at the job fair. The opportunity youth who attended received a passport and interacted with four different stations, which allowed them to explore and learn about Career Decisions, Customer Service and Communication, Interviewing, and Labor Market and Resumes. Youth who completed all stations won a $5 gift card and could pick their top three employers of choice to interview with at the Fair and Forum. Another resource available during this event was access to immediate connection to education programs through our local Opportunities for Youth (OFY) Re-engagement Center provider network.
At the Fair and Forum, there were 24 employers ready to interview and potentially hire the opportunity youth in attendance. A total of 80 youth received an interview, with 10 being offered employment on the spot and 34 receiving conditional offers. Seven youth are still in the hiring process. Youth also accessed other resources: appropriate interview clothing, education resources for secondary and post-secondary options, and community based organizations that can resolve other barriers.
After the Fair and Forum, all 513 youth that registered for event received follow-up calls, in an attempt to determine why youth did not attend, and to connect them with opportunities to reengage with education by referring them to one of the OFY Re-engagement Centers.
We have another Fair and Forum event on June 7th and are working to incorporate some of the lessons that we learning from the Fair and Forum. For example, we hope to hold the pre-fair Job Readiness Boot Camp on the same day as the Fair and Forum; many youth who attended one but not the other said in follow-up calls that they forgot about coming to the actual employment event or experienced transportation issues and chose to come only to the fair. We are also considering additional ways to market the fair, including TV and radio as well as social media and text messaging. We’d also like to use the latter to ease follow-up communication with attendees. Finally, we’re seeking to improve our data-tracking system, as we were unable to get all employers to return their data tracking sheets.