The mission of the Economic Opportunity Pillar of Seed to Oaks is to work with local churches and businesses to reduce unemployment among people living in poverty. Seed to Oaks determined that a workforce intermediary is the best tool to accomplish its mission. A workforce intermediary is an organization or team that responds to the need to close the gap between community and faith-based organizations and employers. The intermediary’s purpose is to “align” employee preparation and training to employer needs, thereby creating the optimal connection or “bridge” between the demand and supply sides of the world of work. The vision of Seed to Oaks is to build a bridge and improve access of the Body of Christ to Seed to Oaks business partners who need workers. The primary objective is to deliver 50 placements with a 70% 6-month retention rate within our 2017/18 fiscal year. The core objectives are to:
- Work with local community and faith-based organizations to provide jobs for those in their communities who are in need.
- Assist the business community in improving access to residents seeking employment
- Work with workforce development organizations to identify future employment demands, and provide supporting services to enable these organizations to grow
- Provide access to retention and wrap-around human services for residents pursuing employment
The Problem: “Don’t Fly the Plane Until it is Built”
More and more employers are finding it difficult to recruit and retain qualified employees. Local and national research has extensively reviewed the need to develop a better system of connecting candidates to employment. This came as a result of the difficulty and in some instances inability of candidates to gain access to employment opportunities. These same challenges are being encountered in the development of a new system to better connect the Body of Christ and candidates not connected to a church to local employment opportunities. The Seed to Oaks team developed a business plan from its planning and design phase of work and launched a pilot to test its assessment of the challenge of connecting candidates to employment. Those assessments included:
- Assessing commitment of a pilot business to hire and retain
- Assessing the capacity of local churches and other community and faith-based organizations to recruit, train and retain members or candidates
- Assessing the capability of local centers of influence (pastors, community leaders) to support the workforce initiative
The Solution: “Create a Test Flight”
The Seed to Oaks team developed a relationship with a Christian employer, Montgomery Automotive Group (MAG), who needed employees. Initially 21 positions were available on July 1, 2017 to launch a pilot that had as an objective to recruit, train and place 10-12 candidates for employment. The initial strategy was to work with local churches and identify members who needed employment. With the assistance of Sojourn Community Church and Southeast Christian Church an initial group of pastors met and listened to the scope of work of the pilot. Fourteen (14) churches were contacted personally or through email to see if there were people interested in interviewing for the positions with MAG and a Basic Training program was developed.
The team decided that they should divide the candidates into four workforce groups each organized by the time it takes to be prepared to interview (retirees (1 week); currently working or displaced (1 week); high school or college graduates (2-12 weeks); drop-outs, ex-offenders, immigrants, welfare (12 or more weeks). Since a part of its plan was also to target the four workforce groups that could generate a Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employers (Ex-offenders, veterans, welfare recipients and participants of the Department of Vocation Rehabilitation), the team initially contacted Tara Harrod, Program Administrator at the Kentucky Department of Corrections-Reentry Branch. The purpose of our meeting was to learn more about candidates who may be on parole and would be interested in our automotive opportunities. The following criteria was provided to Tara to guide the recommendation process:
- Have an interest in the automotive industry
- Have “desire and discipline”
- Be able to generate a Work Opportunity Tax Credit for an employer
- Not be convicted of a sexual offense
- Not be convicted of a violent offense
- Be willing to connect to a local community/faith-based organization
The team developed a timeline where Tara contacted parole officers the week of July 3; the parole officers responded to us the week of July 10; the STO WI team began meeting with and preparing recommended candidates during the week of July 17; and those candidates were targeted for interviews with MAG the week of July 24.
The Seed to Oaks team as of this report has placed 11 candidates in employment. We succeeded in meeting our outcome target.
Candidates Referred – 29
Candidates Contacted – 29
Candidates Trained – 15
Candidates Placed – 12
Candidates Retained – 11
Candidates in Training – 3
The Seed to Oaks team was successful in delivering 11 candidates to employment. The team is moving forward in developing and implementing an effective plan that will deliver 50 placements to Seed to Oaks business partners within the first 12 months of operations. It is targeting 70% retention for those initially hired at the end of the first six months of operation. The team believes that the pilot and lessons learned from it will allow Seed to Oaks to build its economic pillar that successfully connects and retains candidates to employment.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a Seed to Oaks Business Partner or mentor one of these individuals for one hour a week, contact James Westbrook at firstname.lastname@example.org.