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 paid store internship 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 and Banana Republic 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 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. Each This Way Ahead participant receives two months of 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. After the training program, youth are eligible to apply for paid internships at our stores.

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. Through early 2017, more than 2,800 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 interns who are part of This Way Ahead, and in 2017 we added two additional cities and doubled the number of interns again.

This Way Ahead Benefits Us All

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

  • 97% of participants improve their work-ready and soft skills, including job search and interviewing skills, as well as communications, problem-solving, decision-making and relationship-building skills.
  • 66% of participants report an increase in their self-confidence and ability to get a job in the future.
  • 77% of graduates receive job offers at our stores after their internship.
  • 89% of mentors say they’ve increased their ability to develop and coach their teams.

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 interns 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.

This Way Ahead has also been an effective professional development tool for existing Gap Inc. employees.

“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 for their paid internships. 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 2,800 young people have participated in This Way Ahead across 15 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. and Canada. Our nonprofit partners include: Archdiocesan Youth Employment Services (AYE), Cambridge Housing Authority, Enterprise for Youth, Goodwill Central Texas, Goodwill of North Georgia, Juma Ventures, Pacific Community Resources Society, The Prince’s Trust, SER Jobs For Progress, The Door, Youth Employment Services, Youth Co-Op Inc., Youth Job Center and YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School.

In 2017, This Way Ahead operates in 15 cities across the U.S., U.K. and Canada. In North America, This Way Ahead is up and running in 12 cities: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto and Vancouver. In the U.K., This Way Ahead operates in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

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."