Employers Tap Diverse Talent Pools as Talent Solutions Series Returns

Finding qualified talent remains as challenging as ever. That’s no surprise to Michigan employers who have been recruiting in a market with only seven jobseekers for every 10 openings.

The good news: A wide range of untapped talent pools are ready and waiting for employers to meet their hiring needs now and into the future. People with disabilities, diverse populations and immigrants, young people eager to explore work-based learning, and returning citizens are just some of the sources highlighted at our Expand Your Talent Pipeline event on September 13.

The event, the first in this year’s Talent Solutions Series, kicked off at Calvin University’s Prince Conference Center & Hotel with a presentation by Kristine Snook, an HR Director for the North West Michigan region at Meijer.

Snook shared insights to keys to diversifying talent pipelines — strategies that were developed, in part, to respond to the hiring challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:

  • Knowing your community (making sure all, customers as well as employees, feel welcomed)
  • Thinking outside your four walls (developing partnerships outside your organization)
  • Tapping into unique pipelines (one Meijer store, for example, partners with Kent ISD to hire and coach students with disabilities)
  • Being creative in approaches that work for your organization

More insights, more connections

panel etc2A key feature of the retooled, action-oriented Talent Solutions Series format was a partner fair where employers had a chance to connect with 34 education providers, community organizations & vetted staffing firms. But first, a panel discussion set the stage, with featured four distinct perspectives on talent pools that employers may be overlooking:

  • Laurel Buck, director of employment initiatives for Upbound Staffing, spoke about the misconceptions and opportunities of hiring people on the autism spectrum — a misunderstood population that includes highly capable and often highly educated job candidates. Upbound Staffing, formed by the Autism Alliance of Michigan, helps connect people living with autism to the world of work. Importantly, it also supports and trains employers to welcome people with disabilities into their workforce. In Michigan, this is a mostly untapped workforce of more than 974,000.
  • Maria Morales, director of workforce development for Latin Americans United for Progress, spoke about the importance of building bridges in education, language, opportunities and employment with the region’s fastest-growing demographic, the Hispanic community. The many resources of LAUP include classes in English as a second language – but also Spanish as a second language to support employers, as well as supports in digital literacy and leadership skills. An emphasis on education includes building connections with employers to identify needs and opportunities.

  • Ryan Graham, director of workforce development at Kent Career Technical Center, highlighted the value of work-based learning opportunities. Tech center students are developing top-rated, highly sought skills, Graham said, but employers might miss out on this world-class talent due to concerns about hiring minors — concerns that can be navigated. Work-based learning is a powerful tool to engage with young talent, a population that has shown the largest decline in labor force participation in Michigan over the past two decades.
  • Nick Nichols, program coordinator of the Calvin Prison Initiative, spoke about the extensive skills that returning citizens offer to employers — many have spent decades perfecting their trade. What’s more, they are highly motivated to succeed at their work, grateful for their second chance upon leaving prison. (Research confirms retention and loyalty is higher among formerly incarcerated employees.) Employers unwilling to tap into this resource are missing out on the 13,000 Michiganders who are paroled every year.

partner fair 1

Armed with these insights, attendees joined the partner fair, where they had an opportunity to start building relationships with sources of West Michigan talent. This is a key step to expand a talent pipeline — one of the main strategies of our Talent Solutions Playbook, now in its third edition, which provides the framework for our Talent Solutions Series.

Registration is open now for the next two events in the series:

Strengthen Your Employer Brand: 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11 at Grand Valley State University’s L. William Seidman Center in Grand Rapids

Enhance Onboarding & Career Pathways: 9-11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8 at The Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville


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