Gap Inc.’s This Way Ahead and Juma: Working Together to Build Bridges to Opportunity

At Juma, we strive to give youth from under-resourced communities an opportunity to earn an income, learn job and life skills, and connect to their next step forward toward a living-wage career. In partnership with Gap Inc.’s This Way Ahead program, Juma youth in San Jose are finding that connection through paid internships at Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy, where they take on new challenges while retaining support from Juma.

Through the partnership, interested youth from Juma San Jose who qualify have the opportunity to interview for This Way Ahead. This process gives youth a chance to practice interviewing in a real-world setting. Youth also receive feedback on their interview through Juma so that they have a chance to improve their interview skills with the support of Juma staff.

Youth who interview successfully are offered a paid internship in an entry-level position at a Gap, Banana Republic, or Old Navy retail store. In 2019, feedback from the interview process was resoundingly positive and 19 youth were offered placements. Youth who perform well in their internship may also be offered a seasonal or permanent position with their store at the end of their internship period. Implemented directly by local store managers, Gap Inc. employees mentor youth through the learning curve of professional norms in a retail environment. Youth also have the support and encouragement of their Juma managers who work closely with Gap Inc. personnel to ensure youth have the tools and support they need to thrive in their new work setting.

Jeannie, a Juma and This Way Ahead Alumni who currently works at a Gap store, describes her experience there as empowering. “I started going out of my comfort zone and talking to more customers than I did when I was a cashier at Levi’s Stadium with Juma; I really got to connect with them. We talk about how their day is going or I help them sign up for a Gap card or a Rewards Program; it’s a pretty cool way to learn.”

Jeannie also found new skills in communication and customer service that helped her to come out of her shell. “I used to be really shy at first but after getting to learn from Gap managers I eventually started to be more talkative and more outgoing. I started going to people instead of waiting for them to come to me, which is really helpful.”

In 2019, 90% of Juma’s This Way Ahead interns completed their internships. 79% of those who finished their internships were offered a job at their retail store. “This speaks not just to the support system between Gap Inc. and Juma, but also to the preparation youth receive prior to joining This Way Ahead,” says Lindsey Coonan, Juma Director of Strategic Partnerships. “What we are finding is that Juma youth are doing great in their interviews, they are showing up with professional resumes, and they are making fantastic impressions on their supervisors at Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy stores. It has been very affirming to see the skills youth learn at Juma in action, moving them forward in their careers.”

By 2025, Gap Inc. aims to have 5% of all of their entry-level roles filled by graduates of This Way Ahead, paving the way for more youth to learn and connect in a supportive space. “Ultimately, the goal of partnerships like This Way Ahead is to empower youth to make long-term career decisions by setting them up not just for the next job, but for the rest of their lives,” says Lindsey. “Entry-level roles at established brands like Gap can give youth a chance to bolster their resumes and earn references while learning transferable skills that will be meaningful long past their first internship.”

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