By Michael A. Bettersworth & Mike Hollingsworth
Having the people with the right capabilities is essential to building and sustaining a competitive business – especially for technology sectors like energy. Most companies can’t afford to hire and train someone from the ground up. When skill shortages exist, online job postings often don’t attract ideal candidates. Add to that baby boomer retirements, global competition, technological shifts, and demographic swings, and the need for effective talent pipelines becomes increasingly clear to business leaders.
Here are ten steps to bring a talent pipeline into production:
Talent pipelines are built around relationships . . . that means get on campuses and talk to faculty and students. College faculty – particularly at two-year community and technical colleges – are eager to hear from businesses about designing curriculums to meet the needs of businesses and to open doors to companies that want to present to students, participate in career fairs, or serve on advisory committees.
Effective talent pipelines start early, so companies waiting until the last semester will find the best candidates have been cherry-picked by more engaged competitors. Students know there is real competition for skilled talent.
Many students are looking for internships, co-ops (below), and opportunities to apply for viable jobs. When visiting a campus, companies should be ready to act and close deals.
Students who can’t make a decision are told not to waste the employer’s time and the same is true for employers, so be ready to make an offer. Don’t send someone from HR without the authority to hire.
A “co-op” is a carefully managed part-time work agreement overseen by a faculty member and a manager as part of a student’s degree plan. Firms offer part-time jobs aligned with a specific college program (e.g., instrumentation). Students in the program apply for the co-op and, if accepted, report to a faculty member on a set timetable.
Co-ops are a win-win-win for the student, the prospective employer, and the college. At the completion of a co-op, students often advance from part-time to full-time employment during the last semester in a seamless transition from college to career. This reduces recruiting costs and increases retention rates. Likewise, retention and completion at the college improves because students see a tangible return for continuing to work hard in the classroom.
Be upfront and honest. If it’s not a 9 to 5 job, tell the students that from the start. Let students know about the company culture. Be clear about travel expectations. Tell students if there is an alcohol policy or other important expectations they should know up front.
Don’t Trash-Talk the Competition
Students talk, so recruiters need to be careful when talking about competitors. Potential employees should want to join a company for their positive qualities. Disparaging the competition in an attempt to win a new hire breeds animosity.
Pay may be the first thing students look at when comparing one job opportunity to another, but things like benefits and progression plans often make the difference in securing a new hire.
Students are instructed to pay less attention to salary and more to benefits so they understand the difference between making $2 more an hour at one company versus another offering a lower salary with 100 percent health coverage and 401K matching.
Have Progression Plans
Progression plans are another competitive advantage – particularly for skilled entry-level positions common in the energy sector.
Many companies favor promoting from within and offer internal training and testing programs allowing technicians to advance from field service into management. Students learn about these opportunities from peers and the college faculty, who are eager to collaborate with companies offering the best futures for students’ long-term success.
Invest in the Pipeline
Equipment donations are a tremendous help to college programs and ensure skills keep pace with rapidly changing industry needs. Traditional scholarships mean a great deal to students by reducing their debt loads. Both kinds of contributions can be tax deductible. Businesses also can create more advanced sponsorship programs. These allow prospective employers to evaluate a student on the job before committing to a full-time position. Students usually work for companies part-time during the summer semester while the employer underwrites the student’s education costs.
Be Vocal & Get Local
Most adults are not aware of the wide variety of occupations in energy and high school students even less so. Few realize the high earnings potential in technical fields like welding, robotics, and advanced manufacturing.
Companies need to get out there and communicate about the good jobs in technical fields that are available with a two-year associate of applied science degree.
Texas has a rich diversity of talent sources including research universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and technical colleges. Skills are what flow inside a talent pipeline and these institutions are the suppliers. A really successful talent pipeline works when businesses and educators collaborate to connect a student with a great career and future advancement.
Michael Bettersworth is the Senior Advisor at the Texas State Technical College System where he leads efforts to improve student employability outcomes. For more information about TSTC education programs in the energy sector visit www.tstc.edu/energy.
Mike Hollingsworth is an instructor in the electrical power and control division at Texas State Technical College in Waco. He came to the classroom after a 30 year career with Oncor as a senior lineman and crew foreman.
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