Bridging the Gap

“Everybody needs help sometimes, Peter, even Spiderman.” 

This statement from MJ to Peter Parker in the 2007 blockbuster movie is true for everyone – even you. It’s especially true for two audiences that need to help each other – the supposed “unemployable” and the employers that need them; but they rarely ever get the opportunity to even meet without a good-hearted professional bridging the gap. September is National Workforce Development month, which prompts me to write that now more than ever appreciating the critically important work that every workforce development program in our state, and nation, needs to be more substantive than merely pats on the back. There is a large gap in our workforce today between those who are considered “unemployable” and the employers looking for the perpetually elusive rainbow-colored unicorn of the “perfect hire,” all the while complaining they are desperate to find qualified, dependable talent. The term “unemployable” is not only wrong, it’s cruel. Just because someone got off the traditionally trodden path to success, either by choice or circumstance, doesn’t disqualify their value or potential. For the sake of this article, let’s redefine them as the “remarkable,” because once you start hiring those hungry for a chance, you’ll experience the most remarkable gratitude and loyalty you’ve ever experienced in business. It’s time to lean on those standing in the gap more than ever to lead the effort to solve the problems in both society and your business.

Even if there isn’t an altruistic bone in your company’s spine, it is time to trust the professionals who make a living at looking past resumes and life choices into the present state of someone in need of a chance for change in their life’s trajectory. You pretty much don’t have a choice anymore. As of August of 2019, the unemployment rate in our nation was 3.9 percent, and companies are desperate to fill roles. There are simply not enough qualified prospects to do the jobs necessary to keep companies fully staffed. As a result of the great need for talent, employers cannot solve this problem by doing the same things they have done in the past. It’s time to look for the remarkable. That’s where workforce development programs come into play. 

Workforce development programs do the hard and necessary work of equipping those they serve to enter into meaningful positions in companies of all types. Here at PAIRIN, we work every day to help workforce development programs bridge the gap between the remarkable and employers that are searching for talent.

On one side of the gap, we have the remarkable, yet undiscovered. Finding these individuals requires companies to look in the nooks and crannies, the alleys and the shadows of society – the places employers would have previously not ventured to find talent. They likely won’t show up on job staffing websites or present you with a beautifully clean resume. Many of them won’t even have the education that is listed on current job descriptions, but they are going to be loyal. They will be grateful to come into work each and every day because you have given them an opportunity they would otherwise not have. They will work hard. They will be vetted, not by a college degree, but by a workforce development program that is solely focused on giving the remarkable a chance in the workplace, and equipping them with the skills they need to thrive. And they will step into the position you offer them, often with a team of people from the workforce program behind them, supporting them at every step of the way. 

On the other side of the gap, you have employers. And to be honest, as employers, your job will be to open your hearts and allow your mind to be changed. No longer will companies be able to look at the history of the potential employee and then decide if they are “worthy” of hiring. Instead, companies must focus on potential – where someone could go and how the company could be a part of the journey to develop them. Companies must see how giving the remarkable a chance of employment could not only change their life, but also the future generations of their families. As employers, you are given the opportunity and honor of taking a risk on the remarkable, who would otherwise be overlooked.

As employers, you need to recognize that the remarkable may be people you wouldn’t have hired in the past. Those that look different, sound different, have different backgrounds or little to no education. What you, as the employer needs to see is that this risk of hiring someone you would have previously not even considered, has more of a benefit for you and your company than not hiring them.

Workforce development programs are doing amazing work, and there are thousands of stories of each program yielding real fruit and creating radical life change in the lives of their program participants and companies who hire them. But, in a data centric world, it’s time to put data points to the stories – to show the impact each program is making. This is where PAIRIN comes in. PAIRIN helps workforce program leaders remove barriers to employment for those they serve. PAIRIN helps bridge the gap between the workforce development programs, it’s participants and their future employers. The skills-based data analysis follows the program participant from the beginning to the end of their workforce development program, and then into their employment, bringing skill growth proof points to demonstrate growth and potential. 

One of PAIRIN’s clients, CrossPurpose, is a non-profit organization in Northeast Denver that provides a 6-month career and community development program. The goal of CrossPurpose’s program is to “fix the broken system and rebuild the societal base surrounding our neighbors, creating more integrated communities and developing pathways out of poverty through meaningful careers.” When a new participant starts the Professional Development portion of the program, they take The PAIRIN Survey to measure their starting skills. After they complete the program, they take The PAIRIN Survey again to show the individual’s growth while in the program. For example, in year one, 91 percent of leaders who completed The PAIRIN Survey before and after the Professional Development section showed statistically significant growth. In year two, 100 percent of participants showed statistically relevant growth in these areas. This is just a small example of the kind of data The PAIRIN Survey can track and the kind of real growth impact that workforce programs have on their participants.

As the CEO of PAIRIN, I’m stoked at the thought of bridging the gap between workplace development programs and potential employers. Through this work, we are proving that nobody has to stay where they’ve been told they can’t move beyond. We are called to be freedom fighters – standing at the front lines and advocating for the under appreciated. Advocating for the remarkable – for the one who has believed the lie for their entire life that they are unworthy, unwanted and unable to live a different life. We are advocating for the one who has been stuck in a cycle of poverty because of the family they were born into, their mental illness or the mistakes they made in their past. We are advocating for freedom for the one person who is willing to believe that maybe, just maybe, they could be more than life tells them if someone will provide a chance to prove themselves. 

We believe that through workforce development programs, and companies that are willing to open their arms and doors, the remarkable will be included. Not because you have to, and not because it’s nice to have your offices more “colorful”, but because you have the opportunity to give someone a chance to change everything in their life, from their mindset, to socioeconomic standing. You can reverse the lies that are ingrained deep in their hearts and minds. You can be the person who chooses to see a person’s true potential and convince them they “can”. When they finally believe it for themselves, you will watch their life change forever. Furthermore, that life change will be directly traced back to the chance you took on that employee. Their unwavering gratefulness and loyalty to you and your company will be undeniable.

Employers, will you be that kind of company? Will you take a chance on a hire that may not fit the mold, and who might not have the experience or degree that you have? Will you trust that they will be hardworking and loyal employees that are worth taking a risk on? Will you believe that regardless of where they have once been, they have the potential to grow into one of your most valued employees. Will you take a chance on the remarkable?

Workforce development programs, will you keep being the boots on the ground? Will you continue to train, teach, and equip those that were once forgotten, but are truly remarkable? Will you keep sharing the amazing stories of life-changing impact that your programs yield, in both story and data form? 

If even Spiderman needed a little help from a caring friend to be the best superhero he could be, how much do you think the remarkable need? There are superhuman people eager to jump in and be the help you’ve been desperately needing. Take a chance on them. You won’t regret it.