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Why – and How – to Hire Young People Without Diplomas


Apr. 29, 2015 Harvard Business Review

When an executive at global services firm UBS Americas challenged trainees to design a cost-saving strategy, one young woman proposed that the company install software that puts a computer into sleep mode after a period of inactivity. This idea was calculated to save up to $400,000 a year for every 1,000 computers and the practice was quickly adopted.

The trainee, who didn’t have a college degree, saved the firm hundreds of thousands of dollars. As remarkable as this is, it isn’t an isolated example. Indeed, in our interviews for the study “Making Youth Employment Work,” conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we heard story after story of revenue increases, cash savings, and tangible workforce improvements that smart companies are realizing by tapping into the potential of workers who are 16–24 years old.

Corporate leaders told us that employing young adults is not a charity project or “nice-to-have” anymore. Instead, it’s aboutconcrete business benefits. The investments in young adult workers pay off in four important ways. They:

  • Create a robust pipeline of their company’s next generation of talent.
  • Fill critical skills gaps.
  • Increase workforce diversity that enables greater customer connection.
  • Spur innovation.

The companies in our research represent a range of industries, and vary in size from small local firms to global powerhouses. Moreover, our study uncovered a range of successful approaches to employing young adults, from building in-house training to partnering with outsourced providers. What these companies share is a recognition that a strong youth talent pipeline is critical to their success.

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