Working With Year Up to Tap the Potential of Opportunity Youth

07 Jul 2016 | MEGHAN BARNES

Tagged: Collaborators & Supporters, Possibilities, Aspire,

During grad school, my econ 622 professor used a popular fast food burrito to help explain the basics of supply and demand.  I was reminded of this course while reading an article in preparation for a panel on new ventures in corporate philanthropy.  This time, however, the example was one I am much more passionate about: how opportunity youth can fix the strain on the United States talent pipeline.

Corporations have an opportunity to address this gap by equipping young adults, specifically opportunity youth with the skills needed to succeed. 

Conference attendees were referred to the same article which addressed the history of the U.S. labor market and how it has left us in a hiring conundrum. For example, in 2015 employers were trying to fill a record high of open jobs in the United States, while at the same time, labor force participation among working-age adults was at a 40-year low – often referred to as the skills gap.

Corporations have an opportunity to address this gap by equipping young adults, specifically opportunity youth – the 5.5 million young adults aged 16-24 who are neither in school nor the workforce – with the skills needed to succeed. That’s why our company is investing in the talent pipeline through AT&T Aspire.

A group of nonprofits, academics and corporate funders discussed these issues, and how to address them last week at the 4th Annual Year Up Talent Solutions Forum in New York City. On the new ventures panel, I spoke about a pilot between AT&T and Year Up to provide opportunity youth with training and hands on experience through a 6 month internship at AT&T. Students will shadow our sales and customer support teams, learning invaluable skills that will translate across industry sectors. Our hope is that this experience will better prepare Year Up students to start a career, either with our company or somewhere else. 

We look forward to the new energy and ideas they will bring to our business – and hope that their stories will inspire others to draw out the potential in young people everywhere.  Exploring the untapped supply of talent with opportunity youth will prompt a welcome and needed change to how we hire and develop a talented and diverse workforce.

About the Author


Senior Program Manager, AT&T Foundation


Meghan Barnes is a Senior Program Manager for AT&T’s Foundation within the AT&T Corporate Sustainability and Philanthropy organization.  In this role, Meghan manages a portfolio of 18+ nonprofits in the education space as part of AT&T’s signature philanthropic initiative, Aspire.   Meghan began at AT&T 6 years ago via the Leadership Development Program.  Meghan is the current national CMO for AT&T’s 2nd largest Employee Resource Group (ERG), oxyGEN, which boasts 17k members and focuses on how best to attract, develop, and retain current and future leaders within AT&T’s talent pipeline.  

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