Are You Overlooking a Job Candidate Goldmine?

If you look for talent acquisition gold in a tapped out stream, you’ll come up with a pan full of sand. But if you stake another claim upstream, you might find some bright, shiny prospects.

There’s a gold mine of talented people just waiting to be discovered. Problem is, most of them are overlooked for all but a minimum-wage job because they lack one increasingly common requirement: a degree. The market is a strange place right now. Jobs keep growing and the talent to fill them keeps getting scarcer. But you could replenish the candidate pipeline stores if you’re willing to think about talent differently.

In some cases, the barriers that exist between employers and people who would make a great team addition are somewhat ideological constructs.

Employers Need Employees and Young People Need a Chance

One-quarter of African American young people are not employed and aren’t in a training or college education program. What’s more concerning is that even with a strong skill set, young people are ”twice as likely” to be unemployed than their mid-age counterparts, according to OECD Education Today.

One problem is that businesses tend to view younger, unskilled workers as too expensive to hire once lower initial productivity and training are factored in. But that might not take into account the additional costs on the other side of the spectrum with hiring top talent in a full employment economy.

These younger workers could be viewed as a long-term investment with a great potential ROI if businesses approach hiring difficult-to-place young people differently. With a strategy to onboard, train, mentor and motivate young people, these workers could exceed expectations in a positive way. With the right incentives, such as opportunities for leadership development, which Millennials tend to crave, they may stay with the company longer than so-called ‘rock star’ talent that everyone wants to hire.

The Millennial Generation is Faring Worse as More Baby Boomers Retire

The recession hit every economic and age group, but its timing had a severe effect on Millennials. As they were coming up, work opportunities plummeted. For young people without a degree, Pew Research says ”they are doing worse than earlier generations at a similar age.”

Even with a college degree, Millennials have double the unemployment rate of people from the Silent Generation who had a degree at the same age. With only a high school diploma, the rate triples, says Pew Research, who also offered these findings for 2012:

  • Unemployed Millennials with a degree spent nearly 30 weeks looking for a job
  • Unemployed Millennials without a degree needed an additional month on average to find a job
  • Millennials with a degree earned a median income of $45,000
  • Millennials without a degree earned a median income of $28,000
  • The unemployment rate for bachelor-degree-holding Millennials was 3.8
  • The unemployment rate for high school graduates was 12.2
  • 5.8 percent of degree-holding Millennials lived in poverty
  • 21.8 percent of high school graduates lived in poverty

As more of the Baby Boomer generation heads toward retirement, the upcoming Millennials who should have slid into entry-level positions within the past few years are still struggling. Thing is, businesses are struggling, too. Filling the growing number of newly created jobs and existing job vacancies leaves businesses at a disadvantage as the talent pool continues to shrink.

Companies are Starting to Come Around to the Idea of a Different Sort of Talent Pipeline

Minority and financially disadvantaged young people face severe challenges with finding a living-wage job. As employers continue to require a degree, even for entry-level positions that arguably don’t require one in the strictest sense, these young people tend to stay in the disenfranchised category. They’re automatically passed over, screened out and not marketed to at all for jobs that they might very well succeed at.

The problem for many began in grammar school. Lower income communities, says Diverse Education, offer lower ”access to quality educational opportunities and resources at the K-12 level.” And success in high school is directly related to college preparedness, college success, and whether high school graduates seek out college at all.

Organizations such as Grads of Life work to bring bright young people who lack a degree together with employers who see their potential and are willing to give them a chance. The number is growing. This is just a small sampling of major corporations that already have programs in place for hiring promising young people:

  • Verizon
  • Virginia Hospital
  • 3M
  • AT&T
  • Bank of America
  • Best Buy
  • Boeing
  • Corning
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Gap
  • Hewlett Packard
  • IBM
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Johnson & Johnson

The talent pipeline of the future is already taking shape with some businesses. It’s broader, deeper and more inclusive of young people who need an opportunity to prove what they’re capable of.

Even with job growth, and even if there’s a reasonably skilled pool of talent to fill it, sourcing and hiring, in general, need an overhaul. Outdated practices that weigh heavily in favor of the employer don’t cut it anymore. Recruiting expert, Leigh Davis writes at LinkedIn that the situation is rather dismal.

Companies still make applicants wait a week or longer for an interview. Communication is still poor. Follow-up communication is even worse. In this era of the ”drive-through” generation, as Davis puts it, extensive waiting and lackluster customer service encourage applicants to go elsewhere for a job.

So while non-degree-holding Millennials struggle to find work at all, those with a degree aren’t being treated much better.

Times are changing. Employers need workers, some of them desperately so. Millennials need opportunities, but many of them are viewed as best suited for minimum-wage, dead-end jobs. To close the widening gap between employer and talent, businesses will need to consider a different sort of strategy.

Apprenticeships can help shape young people and direct them toward college. Employee Mentoring can develop skills on the job that people without a degree are capable of, but haven’t yet acquired.

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