How Unconventional Talent Pools Produce Workplace Standouts

According to research cited in a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, “Managing the Talent Pipeline”, 92% of executives surveyed report that Americans are not as skilled as they need to be and close to 50% are finding it difficult to fill jobs, making finding talent one of the top concerns of today’s business leaders. And the problem is only getting worse.

The Problem

Since the depths of the Great Recession when unemployment hit 10 percent, job growth has been significant. Unemployment claims have been cut in half over the last seven years and are falling fast. Coupled with the decline in workforce participation (mostly older, long term unemployed individuals who have stopped looking for jobs), if this trend continues, the United States could be experiencing a situation of full employment—a historic first for our country in peacetime—within the first half of 2016. (Economists generally consider 2.7% percent unemployment to be full employment, with percentages at that level representing simply the number of people who are temporarily transitioning from one job opportunity to another.)

This is great news for individual job seekers, but for companies it means that the war for talent will continue to ramp up. From the perspective of the private sector, this will be competition on an unprecedented scale.

An Innovative Solution

In this new era companies need to tap into every source of potential talent out there in order to remain economically competitive. Luckily for employers, there is a subset of the population that has been significantly underutilized: Opportunity Youth. Opportunity Youth are young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school and out of work. They number 5.8 million individuals in the U.S.; 1 out of every 8 young people in the population. Opportunity Youth lack the traditional educational credentials and networks often required to enter the workforce and find meaningful careers.

With training, however, Opportunity Youth can be a source of talent that fill essential roles and become our next great employees. As a country, we cannot afford to write off such a large chunk of the potential labor market. Forward thinking companies are innovating new strategies to expand their talent pipeline by working in collaboration with non-profits, educators and others.

For example, Marathon Consulting, a leading managed service provider in New York, was struggling to find the right talent when most of the resumes they were receiving looked exactly the same. Marathon Consulting also wanted to provide opportunities for young adults just beginning their professional careers in New York’s high-tech industry.

To solve this problem, they partnered with NPower and their Technology Service Corps program. NPower’s Technology Service Corps prepares participants to begin careers in the IT field by offering free technical classes, mentoring from business leaders, paid internships and more. By partnering with NPower, Marathon Consulting has gained a direct link to an ongoing source of talented potential employees who arrive with impressive internal motivation along with training in basic IT skills, reducing the ramp-up time for new engineers, and providing a faster return on investment for Marathon Consulting.

If companies continue to practice hiring as usual, the labor force will tighten and our economy will slow down. Bringing Opportunity Youth into the talent pipeline is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.

Diversity, Innovation, Workforce Development,
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