Mayor Ted Wheeler emphasizes urgency to support career pathways for region’s young people

Contact: Glenn Fee, Gateway to College National Network, 303-249-3271
Contact: Shawn Uhlman, Prosper Portland, 503-823-7994

On Friday, April 13, up to 2,000 young adults – many of them out of school and out of work – will converge on the Oregon Convention Center to engage with 48 local and national employers seeking to fill more than 1,500 immediate openings at the Portland Opportunity Youth Job Fair.

Younger workers are struggling to take advantage of the Portland region’s strong job growth. Nearly 30,000 of the region’s young people between 16 and 24 – more than 11 percent of that age group – are out of school and out of work. The risk to these young people and their futures is clear, but the risk to our community is great as well. The Cowen Institute estimates the economic burden of each unemployed youth (lost tax revenue, criminal justice expenses, health cost, etc.) to be $13,900 annually.

The Opportunity Youth Job Fair – co-hosted by Worksystems and Gateway to College National Network with support from Starbucks, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, Prosper Portland, and Meyer Memorial Trust – will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Many young adults will interview for immediate job openings, and participating employers are expected to make hundreds of job offers throughout the day.

In his State of the City address today, Mayor Ted Wheeler underscored the urgency to support career pathways for the region’s youth, saying, “The City is proud to be a major sponsor of this event which strives to bring opportunities to a critically important player in our economic and future growth, young people.”

At the Fair’s Opening Event at 10:00 a.m. young adult job seekers will share their aspirations and civic leaders will address initiatives to provide meaningful employment for vulnerable youth in the community.

Erikka Potts, a Gateway to College graduate who had once dropped out of high school, is finishing her associate’s degree at PCC while working 20 hours each week. “The work makes me feel accomplished and productive, and it gives me a leg up that many of my peers do not have,” said Potts.

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is a national effort by more than 50 large companies to hire one million out-of-school and out-of-work young adults by 2020. “We are thrilled to support this remarkable event. The joint efforts of the city of Portland, its employers and the many youth-serving organizations are a true testament to the underlying commitment across the city to make a difference in the development, growth and success of youth,” said Marie Davis, executive director of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative.

Of the nearly 1,200 job seekers already registered for the Fair, 63 percent self-identify as being persons of color, and more than 70 percent have indicated that they are currently not working. Many of these young adults experience significant barriers to employment, and the Fair will include resources such as job-related dress advice, record expungement, and transportation and housing services.

Tours of the fair and opportunities to interview young adults will be available.

For more information, including registration for employers, youth, and volunteers, visit