Takeways from, "Breaking Down Barriers: Understanding the unique needs of individuals who experience barriers to entering the workforce"

HR Alliance Programs Committee Co-Chair, Laurie Price, Benefits Manager, Meso Scale Diagnostics, shares her perspective regarding our June 14 Program.
Thank you to Laurie Price for highlighting key insights and takeaways from the June event, Breaking Down Barriers. Here is a link to her interview after the session. Below is a transcript of the video.

HR Alliance's June program focused on barriers to entry, with the broader scope of barriers that individuals with non-traditional backgrounds, experience when entering the workforce. It's not just entering the workforce, it's also staying in the workforce, getting promoted in the workforce, and being able to move around in the workforce.

A lot of that is predicated on these individuals being able to get their first job. When you watch the video of the program, we had three panelists from three local DC nonprofit organizations. And even though each of them serves a different population in terms of their needs and their experiences, there was so much intersectionality that came into play. And I think that really brought home the importance that for we, you know, as an audience of HR professionals, that we really, look beyond, items that may be, distinctly on someone's resume or on the job application and, think about what people can contribute.

The program really got off to a good start. you know, before the panel discussion, we had, a networking discussion at the table. And, you know, the, the question that was thrown out was, you know, have, do you have experience hiring a non-traditional, applicant? And what, what went well? What did you know, what didn't go well? You know, why is it important? The first table that shared, the person who spoke on behalf of that table self-identified as neurodivergent autistic, and she talked about how important it is to have these discussions because things that may be taken for granted about understanding certain behaviors or things that are expected, may not mean anything to her unless they're explicitly, explicitly spelled out.

It was a great opportunity to hear from these nonprofits who work to help young adults or people who've been experiencing poverty and may be out of the workforce really find their way to the workforce. And not only that, all three of the panelists discussed that they have support mechanisms in place that help the applicant through the job process but also then have the capacity to work with organizations. Maybe the person's supervisor to help them as a go-between and have the discussions so they can foster a way for the person to be successful.

One of the things that came up has been a discussion broadly over the last three years, which is the impact of the hybrid work environment. And interestingly, that came out for an individual with a physical disability that they may have mobility issues. Hybrid or remote work is great because they don't have the barrier of getting into the office. They can work from home.

But for others, maybe someone who's neurodivergent has a hard time, harder time communicating over the computer. Or they may not be able to read body language as well. So that may impact how they react, or how they respond. Someone who's been experiencing poverty, which one of our panelists discussed, is that they may not always have a quiet place to, have an interview, or they may not have a secure internet connection. They may need to find a conference room somewhere in a hotel, or go to a library and find a quiet room.

These are all things that we, as HR professionals, are discovering candidates are experiencing. It's really, important that we understand, the value that individuals can bring because of their non-traditional backgrounds. Someone who had to leave the workforce because either they were ill or a family member was ill, and they experienced poverty, may have a perspective from being older and reentering the workforce in a more junior role so they can get back into the working world. And that in and of itself is valuable.

Or someone who is neuro neurodivergent may, may think of things differently and may think of a new way of doing things, or a new way of explaining things because they need to figure that out for themselves. And then, it can make the discussions more broad. A first-generation college student, from a low-income family may have a really strong work ethic because they had to work, two or three jobs while they were in school to help support their family. Maybe they didn't have job-related internships because they couldn't afford to spend the time on an unpaid job. They needed to work and make money to support their families.

It really was, a really meaningful discussion, and I think there's a lot to be learned from the discussion. What was really great is the, the synergy, between the three panelists. None of them knew each other before, and they really sort of came together through the discussions and planning of the program and saw how they could potentially work together and help each other in support of the populations that they serve. I hope you enjoy the session, and we hope to hear feedback about it and to see you at other HR Alliance programs.

Many thanks to our panelists:  Carolyn Jeppsen, Co-Founder/CEO/President, BroadFutures; Mindi Jacobson, Executive Director & Co-Founder, Future Link; Adam Albanese, Director of Career Support, A Wider Circle

Please watch the entire session below.


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