This Way Ahead

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

A first job is not just a milestone – for many teens and young adults it can be life-changing. Beyond taking on new responsibilities and learning new skills, working for the first time can profoundly shape someone’s goals and prospects for the future. Research shows that failing to get a first job as a teenager has a profound impact on an individual’s long-term earning potential. For example, being unemployed young can reduce earnings by as much as 20 percent for up to two decades.

We created This Way Ahead, our paid store internship program, to help teens and young adults from low-income communities land their first job. This Way Ahead lets us share what we know firsthand from our own employees' experiences – what it takes for a young person to succeed at work. Launched in 2007, This Way Ahead leverages the powerful connections between our employee volunteers, the young people we serve and the rich training ground that exists within our stores.

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

More than 3,800 teens and young adults, ages 16-to-24, have already participated in This Way Ahead, and that’s just the beginning. By 2020, we expect that 10,000 young people will participate in This Way Ahead. And we’re making sure This Way Ahead will transform many more lives by making the commitment that 5% of all our new entry-level store hires will be graduates of This Way Ahead by 2025.

Here’s how it works. Our nonprofit partners recruit teens and young adults from local communities and lead classes that equip them with the skills they need to get – and keep – a job. Volunteers from our Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic stores supplement these classes with career panels and workshops on a variety of topics, including decision-making and conflict resolution. Our employee volunteers bring these subjects to life for participants through interactive exercises and their own personal stories. 

After the training, young people have the opportunity to apply for a paid internship at one of our stores, where they practice their skills in a real work environment.


This Way Ahead Benefits Us All

Evaluations show that more than 95 percent of This Way Ahead participants improve their work-ready and soft skills. And more than 65 percent of participants increase their confidence in themselves and their ability to get a job in the future.

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.

To date, 75 percent of This Way Ahead participants have received job offers at the end of their internships. This Way Ahead has proven to be a great source of talent for our stores, where program alumni have double the retention rate of their peers and some of the highest engagement scores in the company.

Considering the benefits to teens and young adults in our local communities and our business, our brands are eager to expand This Way Ahead and use it to build their pipeline of talent. Through the active participation of our brands, we plan to hire many more store associates and help change the trajectory of thousands more young lives.

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.

1 The Economist, Youth Unemployment: Generation Jobless, 2013

"This Way Ahead connects youth to the incredible experience of a first job, where they gain skills and confidence that stick with them far beyond the internship.  This opportunity also connects them to mentors that can help open doors for them well into the future."

Nory Angel, Executive Director & CEO, SER Jobs for Progress

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."