This Way Ahead

This Way Ahead We believe in the power of a first job

In 2007, we launched This Way Ahead, our life skills and job readiness program, to help youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are from low-income communities land their first job. Because our Old Navy, Gap Banana Republic, and Athleta employees mentor the program participants, This Way Ahead also builds our retail employees’ leadership and management skills. We’ve also integrated the program into our recruitment strategy to help Gap Inc. stores build a valuable talent pipeline of future employees.

5% of new entry-level store hires will be graduates of This Way Ahead by 2025

Through This Way Ahead, we have re-envisioned our retail stores and distribution centers as a rich training ground, where our employees can share what they have learned about career planning and help participants explore careers that will ignite their passion. Before joining the store or Distribution Center teams, each This Way Ahead participant receives in-person and online job training and coaching. During this time, they learn the skills they need to get and keep a job—from decision-making and goal-setting, to how to make presentations and resolve conflicts.

Part of what makes our program successful is our emphasis on partnerships and the power of human connections. We work closely with local nonprofit organizations that help recruit and train participants, and we rely on store employee volunteers to lead workshops and mentor participants.

This Way Ahead has had a significant impact to date, and we have set our sights high for the future. By the end of 2017, more than 3,800 young people have participated in This Way Ahead across 15 cities in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. In 2015, we announced a bold goal to hire 5% of our new entry-level store employees from This Way Ahead by 2025.

To reach that goal, we expect 10,000 youth to participate in This Way Ahead by 2020. Already, we are on our way to achieving this goal: In 2016, we doubled the number of cities and tripled the number of participants who are part of This Way Ahead, and in 2017 we added two additional cities and doubled the number of participants again. 2018 marks the biggest year for program expansion: through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, This Way Ahead will be offered in 22 additional cities in the U.S. and by 2020, will be in 60 total cities through the partnership. Additionally, we’re expanding our footprint in the U.K. from three to eleven cities, piloting in select Athleta stores, piloting in select Gap and Banana Republic stores in Japan, and piloting in select Distribution Centers. These additional efforts allow us to operate This Way Ahead year-round.

This Way Ahead Benefits Us All

In the 11 years we have run This Way Ahead, we have measured substantial social and business benefits.

We are continually refining This Way Ahead based on data we collect and feedback we receive from nonprofit partners, participants and employee volunteers. Given external trends, we have built a program that is responsive to the changing landscape for young employees. As we expand the program to achieve our goals, we are testing different models tailored to different geographic markets, where the number of stores and participants vary.

We are applying the lessons we have learned over the years, including the value of investing in long-term partnerships with local nonprofits, which customize the training programs for young people in their area, and the value of testing new ideas through pilots.

One of the most unique things about this program is that current Gap Inc. employees volunteer with our non-profit partners and lead training workshops before the young people begin the interview process. Not only does this provide leadership and professional development opportunities for Gap Inc. employees to grow as managers, it also gives This Way Ahead participants a chance to build relationships with Gap Inc. employees before the high-stakes experience of an interview,” says Abby Davisson, Director, Global Community Partnerships at Gap Inc.

Part of what makes our program successful is our emphasis on partnerships and the power of human connections.

Through early 2017, more than 3,900 young people have participated in This Way Ahead across 13 cities in the U.S., U.K. and Canada


Partnering to Expand Our Reach

To reach more teens and young adults, we've formed strategic, long-term partnerships with nonprofit organizations in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Japan.

Our nonprofit partners include: Archdiocesan Youth Employment Services (AYE), Big Brothers Big Sisters of The Capital Region Inc., Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth And Middlesex Counties, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Cambridge Housing Authority, Dress for Success San Antonio, Enterprise for Youth, Goodwill Central Texas, Goodwill of North Georgia, Juma Ventures, Montgomery College Foundation Inc., Multi-Cultural Center of Tokyo, Pacific Community Resources Society, The Prince’s Trust, SER Jobs For Progress, Shalom Zone Inc., The Door, Youth Employment Services, Youth Co-Op Inc., Youth Job Center and YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School.

By the end of 2018, This Way Ahead will operate in 53 cities across the U.S., U.K., Canada and Japan. In North America, This Way Ahead will be in the following cities: Atlanta (GA), Austin (TX), Boston (MA), Calgary, Chicago (IL), Cleveland (OH), Columbia (MD), Columbia (SC), Columbus (OH), Ft. Lauderdale (FL), Gallatin (TN), Green Bay (WI), Harrisburg (PA), Hartford (CT), Houston (TX), Kansas City (MO), Kenosha (WI), Knoxville (TN), Los Angeles (CA), Memphis (TN), Mesa/Tempe (AZ), Miami (FL), Milwaukee (WI), Minneapolis/St. Paul (MN), Nashville (TN), New York (NY), Oklahoma City (OK), Omaha (NE), Philadelphia (PA), Portland (OR), Raleigh (NC), Salem (OR), San Antonio (TX), San Diego (CA), San Francisco Bay Area (CA), Sarasota (FL), Scottsdale (AZ), Shrewsbury (NJ), St. Louis (MO), Toronto and Vancouver. In the U.K., This Way Ahead operates in Bath, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff/Newport (Wales), Essex, Glasgow (Scotland), London, Manchester, Newcastle, Portsmouth. In Japan, This Way Ahead will operate in Tokyo.

You can download our alumni report here.

Natalia's Story

"I’ll never forget my first day as an intern at Old Navy – I’d never worked in retail or had a paid job before, and I didn’t know what to expect. But it wound up going by so fast. I was a “greeter” at the front of the store, which worked out great because I’m a big people person. The rest of the team really makes you feel at home – and I definitely wanted to stay on after my internship ended and become a regular store associate. After high school I want to go to college and keep working at Old Navy too. And then I want to become a nurse because I love helping people. My internship made me more confident about being myself."

Jommel's Story

"My family always had big dreams. I was born in the Philippines but my life totally changed when I was 13 and moved to the U.S. with my mom and two brothers. We wanted to be with my grandparents, who moved here before us, and we wanted a better life. We had some hard times and needed to learn English. But I always wanted to succeed, not just for me, but also for my family. I heard about This Way Ahead at school and eventually got a job at Old Navy – but it’s really more than a job. I’ve met lots of different kinds of people, and I’m better at solving problems. I feel like it’s made me a much stronger person. The next step for me is going to college. I’m working really hard but it’s amazing – it’s an adventure."