On October 30, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted its Talent Forward panel, a webinar conference with the goal of finding different ways to reimagine the talent pipeline. Guests shared ideas on how businesses can better prepare students for the workforce and how they can create opportunities for those with their ideal talent qualifications.
One of the sessions within the event was titled “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Creating Solutions for the Opportunity Gap.” It featured Marty Rodgers, the Market Unit Lead of U.S. South for Accenture, and Dr. Adena Williams Loston, President of St. Philip's College, in a conversation focused on St. Philip's College and Accenture’s partnership They discussed ways to help students find internships and job placement opportunities. Here are four major points from their discussion.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Are Essential to Creating New Opportunities
The summer of 2020 saw unrest caused by repressed racial injustice that sparked necessary conversations and actions. HBCUs and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) continue to be relevant and important given everything that is happening in society. They pave the way for students of color to find new opportunities and career paths.
Dr. Loston recognizes the value of HBCUs and the opportunities they provide, noting that she, in fact, is the product of one — and now she offers the same support through St. Philip’s College.
“There are no entry-level requirements [at St. Philip’s College],” she said. “We don't send out rejection letters. We take the masses, and then we create career opportunities.”
Community Engagement Is Key To Finding and Tailoring Career Opportunities
St. Philip's College has three core competencies: student engagement, academic engagement and community engagement. Dr. Loston stressed the importance of community engagement for an academic institution. At Saint Phillip’s College, they focus on working with their San Antonio community, believing that job placement goes hand in hand with the community. They have a 93% job placement rate, with a majority of their graduates going to work within the community.
Dr. Loston attributed this high job placement rate to the fact that they work with their community leaders to inform education.
“We have the highest job placement rate because we are truly anchored to the workforce skills that the business and industries in our community are saying are so vitally important to them,” Dr. Loston shared. “And they help us to develop the curriculum that the students are going to follow.”
Trust Needs to Be Built to Develop a Strong Partnership
Very often, new hires are eager to start a job. But after a few months, the excitement and ambition wears. In order to ensure a successful relationship that turns a job into a career, trust needs to be built on both sides. Employers need to trust that their employees will show up every day ready to work, and employees need to trust that their employers want to develop them for their long-term future.
“The element of trust is always very big,” Dr. Loston shared. “People will show up and say, ‘I'm going to do this, this, this,’ but it's developing a relationship of trust and everybody holding up their end of the bargain.”
There Are Three Key Elements to Developing Successful Job Placement Programs
At the end of their conversation, Marty Rodgers shared the three key elements with the audience in order to build a program similar to that of Saint Phillip’s. The first being that they have to establish the right ecosystem.
“[It’s about} finding the right partners, where you can align on values and have that trust … and opening up and forming this partnership across nonprofits, government, academe and in business,” Rodgers said.
The second key element is that both sides have to have a commitment to each other. If both sides want to commit to each other long term, they again have to build trust and be open about their long-term goals.
The final key element? “You can't just advise; you gotta do,” Rodgers said.
The Accenture program is so successful because its leaders don't delegate and monitor the students, they work with them and discuss their future goals. This gives them a better idea of who they are and how they can find a place for them in the future.