Ithaka S+R is excited to announce that we will be partnering with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to document how SNHU conceptualized, developed, and designed the Future Employment Assessment Tool (FEATuring YOU) to offer scalable, reliable, and engaging methods to assess soft skills and connect “opportunity youth”–young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market–to learning and employment opportunities.  This partnership began in October 2019 and is continuing through March 2020, when we will publish our findings. 

What is FEATuring YOU?

In 2018, SNHU, with support from, began work on a project to develop pathways for students from school to meaningful careers. FEATuring YOU was designed to help promising individuals discover their strengths and translate their skills into metrics designed to correspond to key needs identified by employers. 

As part of this initiative, SNHU has teamed up to create career pathways for opportunity youth in the Boston region and to meet workforce needs for entry-level talent with a set of demonstrated soft skills. Eligible participants are identified through partnerships with community-based organizations and invited to complete the platform’s customized assessments. As potential candidates engage with the platform, which assesses six soft skills (drive for results, adaptability, customer service, critical thinking, communication, problem solving) valued by employers, they have opportunities to refine those skills as needed and ultimately earn digital badges to demonstrate skill mastery to employers. In addition to informing their process through targeted field and market research, SNHU developed an innovative game-based assessment as part of FEATuring YOU and has established a strategic implementation plan to connect youth to opportunity.

Presently, FEATuring YOU is available to hundreds of American opportunity youth across the country and has been piloted as a tool for building and facilitating employment pathways for this promising but underserved group. 

How is Ithaka S+R working with SNHU?

FEATuring YOU builds on the type of pre-hire assessment tools that are increasingly used in the corporate sector (see our landscape review, Mapping the Wild West of Pre-Hire Assessment), but is unusual in that it is spearheaded and managed by a not-for-profit university.  In partnering with SNHU, Ithaka S+R seeks to situate FEATuring YOU within the broader context of enterprise talent development and corporate training in the US. We look forward to drawing out the key lessons from the design and implementation of FEATuring YOU and investigating its potential for connecting and empowering opportunity youth, and engaging employers more broadly.