Across the country some 4.6 million young people ages 16 to 24 aren't in the workforce or receiving an education. On Thursday, big companies from Starbucks to Bank of America, Walmart and FedEx joined together in Atlanta to give them an opportunity.
The companies are part of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, a coalition of 50 leading U.S. businesses committed to offering "opportunity youth" a chance at employment. They've made it a goal to reach 1 million hires by the year 2021. At this week's Atlanta Opportunity Fair & Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center, some 5,000 people showed up eager to join the work force in a metro where the rate of disconnected youth stands at 11 percent of the youth population, or some 78,000 young people.
"This commitment begins our conversation about 'who do we want to employ in our stores?' We want to give everyone that first chance — this is a part of our nation that usually gets forgotten about," Rosalind Brewer, chief operating officer of Starbucks, told CNBC. "When we hire these young individuals, they stay with us longer and they promote sooner than the rest of our hires."