New York’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and leaders from the city’s fashion, real estate, hospitality, business services, media and entertainment industries on Tuesday launched a strategy and approach for creating career opportunities for New York young adults.
The initiative leverages new public-private partnerships with key city industries to provide specialized work experiences for young people and build a pipeline of talent for companies that is homegrown and diverse.
These partnerships will bring together industry stakeholders, including companies, trade associations and related city agencies, in collaboration with the NYC Center for Youth Employment, a Mayor’s Fund initiative that is dedicated to increasing and improving New York’s youth employment services. The goal of the partnerships is to address private sector workforce needs, starting with creating quality internship experiences and opening a dialogue on the employee skills valued by each sector.
Gabrielle Fialkoff, senior adviser to the mayor and director of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, opened a press conference Tuesday morning at the Time Warner Center to explain the mission of the Center for Youth Employment.
“We’ve all come together this morning to address the crisis of youth employment in our society today,” said Fialkoff, drawing on her own background as a fashion executive — prior to joining the [Bill] de Blasio administration in 2014, Fialkoff was president and chief operating officer of Haskell Jewels, the costume jewelry firm founded by her father Frank Fialkoff. “I know firsthand just how valuable having interns can be to a business,” she said. “Not only did they offer their enthusiasm and bring new skills to the workplace, but as a fashion company, they offered a fresh perspective that is very much needed to stay on trend in our business. And yet it was so difficult to find that homegrown diverse talent that we really needed at our company.”
Fialkoff noted that one out of every three American companies has openings for which they cannot find qualified workers, and only 10 percent of companies report meeting their desired diversity outcomes. “Business leaders have told me that they cannot find young talent in New York and they’re recruiting in other cities when we have hundreds of thousands of workers looking for opportunities and workplace experience.” Thus, the Center for Youth Employment was established.
McCray elaborated: “Our mission is simple: By 2020 we want to provide our young people with 100,000 internships, mentorships and summer jobs every year,” she said. “We’re working with employers to make an entirely new landscape. Before employers had to look all over for new employees or they might fall back on hiring children of folks who already work at the company. They had no way to customize their search for young talent and nowhere to share feedback on what worked and what didn’t work….For the first time in city history, we have one central hub businesses can plug into and have a real conversation with government about the kind of talent they’re looking for.”
Speaking on behalf of the fashion industry, Prabal Gurung relayed a lengthy story — 12 minutes-plus — about his American Dream story that began as a fashion hopeful in Nepal to Parsons student to creative director of his own business. Central to his success was his first internship at Donna Karan International. “My first introduction to the real world of fashion was when I got my internship at Donna Karan,” Gurung said. “It was one of the most important times of my life because it gave me a real perspective on the work environment. My first role was not as a design assistant or sketching, much to my dismay…it was basically being a gofer. I spent weeks upon weeks cutting bolts of fabrics into perfect two-inch-by-two-inch swatches and cleaning and organizing the fabric closet.”
So far, the Mayor’s Fund has signed on 126 companies in every borough to either host 500 students in paid, specialized internships this summer or sponsor those opportunities. The opportunities will all be privately funded with the support of founding partners the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Time Warner, Hearst, Discovery Communications, Pearson, CBS Corp., Citi Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase, Deloitte, RBC Capital Markets, Guardian, the Real Estate Board of New York, New York & Co. Inc., the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
The program has secured 38 fashion companies to provide 100 paid fashion internships for summer 2016. Participating companies include, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alice + Olivia, B. Michael America, Barneys New York, CFDA, Coach, J. Crew, Macy’s, Prabal Gurung, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. The NYCEDC is financially backing 60 summer jobs, while the remaining 40 are employer-funded. Asked what the program’s wage parameters are, Fialkoff said, “There’s a minimum of minimum wage and many employers choose to pay more.”
The 500 students who will participate in these internships will be selected from the NYC Ladders for Leaders program, a nationally recognized program administered by the NYC Department for Youth and Community Development. Ladders connects high-achieving high school and college students with paid, professional summer internships within leading large and small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies citywide. These industry partnerships will further specialize the opportunities available through Ladders for Leaders.