100,000 Opportunities Initiative aims to connect Chicago's youth with jobs

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CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nearly 30 companies are holding a massive job fair Thursday aimed at providing jobs for unemployed young people across the country, and it's all starting right here in Chicago.

"There's so much potential that's locked up, and so much potential that gets wasted, and what we're doing tomorrow and every day after that is making sure that we don't waste a single person," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

Led by Starbucks, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is a new public-private collaboration aimed at finding 100,000 jobs by 2018 for unemployed young people.

Nearly 30 companies that have teamed up and will be offering jobs on the spot to hundreds of applicants - ages 16 to 25 - who aren't in school.

"We're calling them opportunity youth. There are 5.3 million of these individuals in our country. We have a responsibility to give them an opportunity, these opportunity youth, to have a better life," said Mellody Hobson, a member of Starbucks' board of directors.

"This is our challenge as a society and as a city. No longer can we tolerate leaving so many young lives behind," Emanuel said earlier this year.

A key part of Mayor Emanuel's second inaugural address focused on employing young people, and he says the city's investments in job training will combine with the private sector and community groups, helping Thursday's event have ongoing local impact.

"This is actually aligning their bottom line with our bottom line and when their bottom line is locked in to what we are trying to do we're going to achieve all that much more," Emanuel said.

"There is a sense of urgency around this for sure. I think our country is crying out to address these issues, and I think young people are saying, give me a chance," Hobson said.

About 4,400 people signed up for Thursday's event at McCormick Place and more than 1,600 of them have been selected for pre-interviews. Organizers will meet on Friday to discuss how to expand the program to other cities.
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