Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) was awarded a $1 million grant from to explore soft skills assessments for opportunity youth-individuals aged 16-24 who are not enrolled in school and are either under or unemployed.

This platform mapped in-demand soft skills for 2,000 opportunity youth and young adults in high-need areas. SNUH worked with Innovate+Educate to incorporate Core Score soft skills assessment – five competencies adaptability, drive for results, communication, customer service and critical thinking.

“We often say that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,” said Paul LeBlanc, president, SNHU. “Through this pilot, we will test that assumption, and help under-skilled workers demonstrate their talents to employers in a meaningful way that really hasn’t been done before.”

“Through the Work Initiative, we’re supporting new efforts to help people prepare for and connect to jobs in the changing economy. We believe that soft skills will only grow in importance as work changes, and we’re excited to support SNHU as they transform the way those skills are assessed and validated.” -Andrew Dunckelman, Economic Opportunity Lead at

According to research conducted by the Sandbox ColLABorative, SNHU’s strategy and innovation lab, which will be managing the grant, more than $1 trillion is spent each year on job intervention programs for young jobseekers, yet less than 5% is spent on assessments of essential workplace skills like teamwork, communication and problem solving.

“Imagine a young person in Los Angeles, Boston, or Chicago. They may not have a high school diploma or college degree to show an employer but they may have been the primary caretaker for younger siblings for the past 10 years, they may be running the finances for the household, or they may have been leading a youth group at their church,” said LeBlanc. “The soft skills they may learn from these life experiences are the skills they may need in the workplace, but they have no credential or proof to show employers. This assessment can help bridge that gap for both our underemployed youth and for employers who are desperately seeking to find workers with specific skills.”

“In addition to technical skills, so-called ‘soft skills’ like teamwork, communication, tenacity, and leadership are critical to helping our young people succeed in jobs in the 21st century innovation economy,” Senator Hassan said. “By helping hard-working Granite Staters demonstrate their soft skills through a new assessment platform, this grant will help SNHU connect students to good jobs in our changing economy. I commend Google, SNHU, and its partners for their commitment to ensuring that our young people have the opportunity to thrive and to helping build the strong workforce that our businesses and economy need. The public sector also needs to do its part to ensure that our young people who are not in school or work (Opportunity Youth) have the support they need to succeed, which is why I am pushing my colleagues to support programs that provide education, training, employment opportunities, and other support services for Opportunity Youth.”

The pilot began at the end of 2018, with a goal of reaching 2,000 opportunity youth by 2020.