This Way Ahead - First Jobs

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

Gap Inc. created This Way Ahead in 2007 to help youth (ages 16-24) facing barriers to employment get a foot in the door for a life-changing first job. Because our Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta and Distribution Center 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.

Our goal is that 5% of new entry-level store hires will be graduates of This Way Ahead by 2025. To reach that goal, we expect 10,000 youth to participate in This Way Ahead by 2020.

Check out the latest This Way Ahead news here.

In recognition of This Way Ahead accomplishments, Fortune named Gap Inc. to its “Change the World” list in 2018

Our Approach

  1. Our employees connect with community partners who provide youth with job training and volunteer to teach youth skills they need to get and keep a job.
  2. When our teams are looking for high-potential talent, they interview youth and hire for potential, not credential. 
  3. When This Way Ahead associates begin working, they receive post-hire support including ongoing coaching from their store manager and a job coach from the community partner. They’re also paired with a Big Sib, a seasoned peer who serves as their go-to for questions + advice.

Over a Decade of Impact

Since the launch of This Way Ahead in 2007, we have measured substantial social and business benefits. You can download our alumni report here.

We are continually refining This Way Ahead based on data we collect and feedback we receive from community 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.

We also have invested resources in making the program easier to implement and customize. In 2018, we created a playbook distilling five key ingredients for teams to use when launching This Way Ahead. At a small number of Athleta stores, Gap stores in Japan, and distribution centers, we led a pilot program that empowers teams to customize the playbook based on their specific business needs. We are also continuing our efforts to apply talent management practices from This Way Ahead to support existing employees across the company. Based on analysis showing that 38 percent of our recent hires have characteristics similar to those of This Way Ahead participants, This Way Ahead partnered with an internal, enterprise-wide initiative to apply the program’s proven strategies to improve retention rates and increase employee engagement across the company.



“Starting as a Brand Associate was not easy, because it was my first job, but through hard work and learning from my team, now I make it look easy. I've learned that the best way to do great work is to love what you do.”

This Way Ahead Alumna, Vancouver 2018
Current Fitting Room Lead at Old Navy



"Many people that I know are struggling, and they are starting to change their lives because they see me doing it. I’m completing my goals and being true to myself. Little by little, I’m becoming someone.”

This Way Ahead Alumnus, Houston 2018
Current Brand Ambassador at Banana Republic

Current Locations

We run This Way Ahead in close partnership with youth-serving community partners in over 50 cities across the US, Canada, UK + Japan. Click here to see an updated list of cities where the program is active.