Through the Portland Opportunity Youth Job Fair, a community builds a pathway to success for its young people

Bringing Gateway to College into our larger network helps Achieving the Dream live up to our aspirations of making community college success mean more than raising student academic outcomes. We want all of our graduates and students in our communities to improve their long-term earnings and economic benefits and ensure that community colleges are engines of local economic growth and vitality, particularly in underserved communities. The Gateway to College program focuses on creating more pathways to and through postsecondary education for students who would otherwise not get to college. Gateway to College primarily creates college-based programs featuring personalized support for young people to thrive in a college setting.

Through the Gateway to College initiative’s Gateway to Career curriculum, seven Gateway to College programs prepared their students for jobs and career pathways that are meaningful to their local communities. The Gateway to College programs worked with local partners to identify sectors of opportunity in their communities, connecting students to mentoring, internships, and skills-based credentialing programs that lead to jobs in these sectors.

As we saw at the recent Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Miami Dade and Indian River were lauded for closely aligning degree programs and initiatives with high demand fields in their regional economies. As community colleges continue to improve their pipeline to growing sectors, there remains a stubbornly high youth unemployment rate, and that rate has consequences, as Marketplace reminded its listeners in an April report. Nationally, 11 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds – often referred to as Opportunity Youth – are currently out of school and out of work. This comes at a high cost to employers, who cannot find qualified workers, and to communities, which ultimately shoulder the economic burden of unemployed youth. A 2012 report by the Cowan Institute estimates the economic cost of each unemployed youth (lost tax revenue, criminal justice expenses, health cost, etc.) to be $13,900 annually.

As part of its Gateway to Career curriculum, the Gateway to College program at Portland Community College (PCC), an ATD Network college, identified first jobs and job-related experiences as critical to their students’ success. Their work in Gateway to Career led to a job fair on its campus in May 2017, where 20 Portland (OR) employers met with Gateway to College students – many of whom were once out of school and out of work – to share immediate job openings with their companies. The response to the fair was so positive among employers and students that Gateway to College National Network began to develop partnerships to hold a larger, city wide fair for opportunity youth in Portland.

The culmination of this effort was the 2018 Opportunity Youth Job Fair, where 1,200 16- to 24-year-olds from throughout the Portland region engaged with 50 employers at the Oregon Convention Center. Many of these employers conducted interviews on site – 209 young people interviewed for jobs, and 103 were immediately offered positions.


ATD is proud to be a sponsor of this year’s Portland Opportunity Youth Job Fair on April 19. As we know from our work with colleges in our Network and in the field, many students face significant barriers to successfully completing their degrees and barriers to finding and retaining employment. The Portland Fair will once again include employers conducting on-site interviews, and it will also include a number of resources intended to reduce barriers to participating in the fair and barriers to staying employed. These resources including free transportation to and from the event, on-site childcare, pre-event resume review and practice interviews, and job-related dress. At the event, resources will include record expungement, housing assistance, free phones for job-related calls, and information on certificate and degree programs with local community community colleges.

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