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.1

We created This Way Ahead (TWA), our store internship program, to help teens and young adults from low-income communities land their first job. TWA 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, TWA 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 entry-level store hires will be graduates of This Way Ahead by 2025.

More than 2,600 teens and young adults ages 16-to-24 years old 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 TWA. And we’re making sure TWA will transform many more lives by making the commitment that 5% of all our entry-level store hires will be graduates of TWA 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 Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy 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

We have found that - because of the connections it creates - This Way Ahead benefits everyone involved, inspiring us to evolve it even further. One hundred percent of TWA graduates have reported gains in maturity, conflict resolution and leadership. More than 90 percent of our employee volunteers reported that their interpersonal and overall leadership skills improved as a result of their involvement in TWA. To date, 75 percent of TWA participants have received job offers at the end of their internships. TWA 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 TWA and use it to build their pipeline of young 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, Prince’s Trust, SER, The Door, YES, Youth Job Center and YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School.

 

In 2016, TWA operates in 12 cities across the U.S., U.K. and Canada. In North America, TWA is up and running in ten cities: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Toronto. In the U.K., TWA operates in London and Manchester.

1 The Economist, Youth Unemployment: Generation Jobless, 2013

"This Way Ahead interns have fun, work hard and learn important life lessons - they get a big boost in confidence."

Tony DiStefano, Executive Director, Enterprise for Youth

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."