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​Local job-placement organizations provide career kickstart for students

June 28,2017 | By Adam Newman

Greater Portland 2020 and Greater Portland Ambassadors host panel discussion on how to prepare the next generation of employees and leaders as part of the Diversity in Leadership Best Practices series.

While many mid-career employees can look back fondly at their first jobs as teenagers, young people today are entering the workforce with a steep learning curve. Only one in four can find a summer job, said Reece Lord of WorkSystems, who is part of the SummerWorks team that pairs 16-24 year olds with office internships. “Without that first job, how do you get that second?”

Reece Lord, center

Fostering this talent pipeline was the topic of discussion today at the second Diversity in Leadership Best Practices event, hosted by Greater Portland 2020 and Greater Portland Ambassadors. The series showcases and celebrates programs of organizations and businesses that are striving to increase diversity raises awareness of these initiatives among the region’s public and private sector communities. Space for the second event in the series was provided by WorkSystems in Portland.

Lord was just one of three panelists at the event, which also included Ben Sand, the CEO of the Portland Leadership Foundation and the Emerging Leaders Internship; and Hans Erickson, the work-based learning coordinator at Partners in Careers. The discussion was led by Janet LaBar, President and CEO of Greater Portland Inc.

Ben Sand, of Portland Leadership Foundation

While the population of the Greater Portland region continues to diversify, that diversity isn’t well reflected in management, leadership and C-suite roles at major public and private institutions, said Sand.

“Many of our best and brightest don’t believe that they are welcome,” said Sand. His organization recruits students from the region and as far away as the University of Oregon in Eugene for local internships. They pre-screen applicants and handle administrative talks like payroll, while the participating companies commit to interviewing at least three candidates for an open position. The process is competitive and the executives who worked with the interns in 2016 were very impressed, he said.

Sand introduces Ruben Estrada, one of the Emerging Leaders Intership students.

“It’s not that the talent isn’t in our region, it’s that there’s a lack of connection between the folks in the private sector and certain folks in other sectors,” he said. The Emerging Leaders Internship had 607 applications for 86 spots, and it hopes to place 120 interns in the summer of 2017. The majority of its students are women and/or minorities.

If students don’t yet have relevant skills to find their first job, an organization like Partners in Careers can help. Working with 100 students in Vancouver, Washington, it organizes mock interviews, resume workshops, and helps out-of-school students earn their GED. Many students have to balance their time with stresses in their personal life like poverty, homelessness, or language barriers.

Hans Erickson, left, of Partners in Careers. 

“Especially at first jobs which aren’t always the most fun,” said Hans Erickson, a former participant and now a learning coordinator, “It’s hard to have a good attitude when there are a lot of things going on in your life.”

Organizations like these provide the essential skills needed to create a powerful talent pipeline in the Greater Portland Region, a key step toward the Greater Portland 2020 initiative’s goal of creating economic prosperity for all the citizens of the region.

If you’d like to learn more about Greater Portland 2020, click here.

To learn more about the Greater Portland Ambassadors program, click here.

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