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New Research from the SHRM Foundation and SHRM Makes the Business Case for Hiring Opportunity Youth

77% of HR professionals and 69% of U.S. workers report that opportunity youth perform as well as or better than other employees

ALEXANDRIA, Va – Today, SHRM, the trusted authority on all things work, and SHRM Foundation released a new report with funding from Walmart through the Center for Racial Equity. The report makes the case for organizations to expand their hiring pools to include “opportunity youth,” defined as young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are disconnected from school and work.

Coupled with the launch of this new untapped talent initiative, the report, From Social Good to Strategic Talent Advantage: The Business Case for Hiring Opportunity Youth, will equip organizations with the knowledge and tools they need to harness the potential of opportunity youth, ultimately addressing their talent gaps and achieving their business goals.

 “By showcasing the unique strengths of opportunity youth and addressing obstacles to their recruitment and hiring, the SHRM Foundation empowers organizations to make smart business decisions while building a more inclusive workforce,” shared Wendi Safstrom, President, SHRM Foundation. “With this initiative and research, we hope to shift mindsets to influence the policies, practices, and culture of HR in workplaces to create intentional hiring pathways for opportunity youth.”

Key findings of the report include:

- Organizations that invest in hiring opportunity youth are less likely to be experiencing talent shortages.

  •     Only 55% of employers that have a formal program for recruiting and hiring opportunity youth currently report difficulties filling their open positions, versus 71% of employers that don’t have any program in place.

- When given the chance, opportunity youth workers perform just as well as or better than other workers.

  • Of those who have currently or previously worked with opportunity youth, 77% of HR professionals and 69% of U.S. workers report that opportunity youth perform as well as or better than other employees.

- Among organizations that partner with advocacy or community-based organizations to recruit and employ opportunity youth, 96% reported positive results.

  • Over half (54%) said these partnerships have been effective or very effective in helping them access and work with members of this talent pool.

- More than 7 in 10 consumers (71%) would be comfortable or very comfortable patronizing a business that hires opportunity youth.

  • In fact, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. consumers (18%) said they would patronize a local business more if they knew the business hired opportunity youth.

- Skills-based hiring can help employers better recognize the potential of opportunity youth. When asked why their organization does not have a program for recruiting and hiring opportunity youth, 43% of HR professionals said opportunity youth lack the skill sets the organization is looking for.

  • However, among HR professionals who have concerns about the level of skills and knowledge opportunity youth possess, 89% said some or most of their concerns would be addressed if the opportunity youth worker held a skilled credential related to the work the organization does.

“While not considered a traditional talent pool, the benefits of hiring opportunity youth,  including young people at increased risk for involvement in the nation’s criminal justice system, are clear,” said Dr. Marvin Carr, director, Center for Racial Equity. “Walmart is proud to support SHRM’s mission to shine a light on this population and create meaningful career opportunities that drive economic mobility, advance racial equity, and break cycles of incarceration.”

This research will also be shared at the SHRM Talent Conference & Expo 2024 with a concurrent session, The Talent Left Behind: Gen Z Opportunity Youth, featuring Dr. Marvin Carr; Sally Windisch, Researcher, SHRM; and Elizabeth Kohm, Manager, Foundation Programs, SHRM Foundation.

All press interested in covering the SHRM Talent Conference & Expo 2024 are welcome to do so virtually. At this time, we are not able to accommodate in-person media/press attendees. Members of the press are welcome to arrange interviews with SHRM Executives and speakers virtually. Please contact and to register for virtual access and to arrange interviews.


Two surveys were fielded in November 2023. A total of 1,488 U.S.-based HR professionals were surveyed electronically using the SHRM Voice of Work Research Panel. In addition, a representative sample of 1,433 U.S. consumers ages 18 and older was surveyed electronically using a third-party research panel. The latter survey included questions presented to a subset of U.S. workers who reported working full time or part time for an organization (n = 892).

About the SHRM Foundation

SHRM Foundation empowers Human Resources as a force for social good. As the nonprofit arm of SHRM, the world's largest HR professional society, the Foundation believes that HR holds a unique position to lead change in the face of complex challenges within the world of work. The organization mobilizes and equips HR to ensure the prosperity and thriving of talent and workplaces. The Foundation works by widening pathways to work for more skills-first candidates and more kinds of talent; tackling societal challenges, with a current focus on workplace mental health and wellness; and strengthening the HR field with even more diversity, growth, and readiness to address these needs. SHRM Foundation works with SHRM, courageous partners, and bold investors to generate awareness, action, and impact to build a world of work that works for all. Discover more at

About SHRM

SHRM is a member-driven catalyst for creating better workplaces where people and businesses thrive together. As the trusted authority on all things work, SHRM is the foremost expert, researcher, advocate, and thought leader on issues and innovations impacting today’s evolving workplaces. With nearly 340,000 members in 180 countries, SHRM touches the lives of more than 362 million workers and their families globally. Discover more at