Creating a Career Pipeline For Millennials

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There’s a peculiar puzzle in Indiana's job market. On the one hand, you have thousands of young people who are entering the workforce and seemingly unable to land jobs with a future. On the other hand, you have employers struggling to fill thousands of critical positions.

I know it's not an oversimplification, because I’ve lived it for many years. Before taking my present position, I ran a large distribution center in northern Indiana. We offered high-paying jobs in a labor market that desperately needed them. Despite that, we fought a constant battle to fill positions.

Like many others in our state’s transportation, logistics, and distribution sector, we frequently found ourselves turning to temporary agencies, paying a premium to achieve our headcount with people who weren’t likely to stick around. My budget included discretionary dollars that I hoped to use as incentives for our best employees. Instead, I wound up shelling out most of those dollars to temp agencies, which meant I was investing in short-term crises instead of building a long-term workforce.

My counterparts throughout the state who are reading this are nodding. Find any area with a strong logistics presence, and you’ll also find scads of temporary agencies living off similar problems. State agencies have tried to address the shortage, but their answers have provided limited results.

I firmly believe that government efforts are never as effective as what the private sector can accomplish, and that’s why I joined forces with a friend and vendor to create a new approach. Through an innovative business model, Safe Recruiter Solutions is preparing young people with the skills that my industry desperately needs, and building a pipeline to deliver those young people to employers. Instead of chasing after a handful of temporary fill-ins, we’re creating career-minded employees who appreciate the opportunity to step into high-paying jobs as soon as they earn a diploma.

Our business model creates a partnership between employers and local K-12 school districts and postsecondary education providers. It’s built on a concept that’s simple to describe and easy to implement, yet astonishingly effective in providing long-term results. We bring the employers into the schools, where they share details about the career opportunities with students. The employers essentially become adjunct faculty members, teaching the specific skills that companies in our industry need.

Participating students are vetted for skills and desirable traits (with the help of our parent company, Safe Hiring Solutions), and then channeled into the employers through paid internships and similar arrangements. Once the students have served in those roles and are ready to graduate, the employers can hire them for full-time, career-oriented positions for a fee that’s a tiny fraction of what they’re currently paying to the temporary agencies.

The potential savings are mind-boggling.  Given what temporary agencies typically charge, a company that hires just ten $10-an-hour positions through our model will save more than $200,000 in employment-related costs. If they’re filling slots that pay more, the savings are even greater. Instead of settling for an expensive short-term solution, they’re able to access a significantly lower-cost way to gain permanent employees who are trained for the company’s specific needs and who are more likely to stick around for the long haul.

Think it sounds like a great concept, but wonder if it can work in the real world? Guess what -- it is working. We’re up and running in several central Indiana counties, putting our business model to the test. It’s already exceeding our expectations. Employers have embraced it. So have school administrators, because they feel an ethical obligation to prepare young people for life after graduation.  Landing high-paying jobs in their communities means those graduates are more likely to stick around, start families, and buy homes.

For years, we’ve heard elected officials talk about the need for more career-focused education and the desire to give young people who aren’t ready for college something better than minimum-wage jobs. Those are important goals, but government efforts to address them have been less than successful. Once again, the private sector has come up with a better way. Best of all, our model isn’t a one-off response in one local market. It’s a concept we’ll be able to replicate throughout Indiana and beyond.  And if your company is struggling to find the right people, we invite you to help us implement this approach.  It’s good for business, it’s good for the Millennials we’re placing, and it’s good for Indiana’s economy.

Shane Powell is CEO of Crawfordsville-based Safe Recruiter Solutions.

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