There is hidden talent out there and Dr. Art Langer knows how to find it.
How does he do this?
To understand the source of talent he uncovers and successfully places at companies that desperately need talent, it’s necessary to understand how he came to be in this position.
About twenty years ago, Langer, a professor at Columbia University, was approached by a student who was working on a grant for HUD and said that he had 40 talented people that were from underserved communities in Harlem and was concerned that their talent wouldn’t find a way to the workforce.
Langer invited these potential workers to the campus and provided training that was necessary for this talent to find jobs in information technology. The training took place under the Inner-City Workplace Literacy Program that Langer created.
“In addition to finding talent in underserviced populations, we nurture people and provide all of the necessary skills and support that people need to be successful at companies,” said Langer who is currently a Professor of Professional Practice, Director of the Center for Technology Management, and Academic Director of the M.S. in Technology Management programs at Columbia University.
To devise programs that can properly prepare people for jobs, Langer created a Workforce Maturity Arc, which is a tool to measure the job readiness. In this tool, participants shared their experiences through prompted questions in learning journals and the information was coded qualitatively. Using his findings from the research project, Dr. Langer created a systemic workforce development solution which merged technical training, interpersonal skills, and advice on how to boost self-confidence to successfully integrate socioeconomically disadvantaged communities into the workforce
This laid the foundation for the Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), which was created in 2005 and is a non-profit group “dedicated to recruiting, training and placing underserved and veteran job seekers into long-lasting careers at prominent organizations.”
GE, Johnson & Johnson, and Lear Corp. are among the 65 corporations the organization works with.
“Our secret sauce is our extensive network that we can tap into to find talent,” says Longer. “That can include community organizations, educational institutions of all varieties and even the ‘street’. And then we remove any barriers to employment.”
And if that includes finding a place to live for a talented person who needs it, Langer’s group will pay the rent. The group provides training in soft skills, mentoring and whatever else is necessary for the person to find a long-term job.
“We know that if this talent is supported, they will be committed to the companies and become long-term employees,” says Langer. He has proof of that belief as the retention rate of the people he places in jobs is over 90% says Langer.
In fact, WOS is the official employer until the time that the company decides to hire employees on a full-time basis. “We offer a risk-free way to bring in qualified talent,” says Langer.
One of the group’s programs that works directly with companies is called the Talent Acquisition Pipeline. Its objective is to place high-potential, early-career employees at leading companies. WOS designs an academic training program curriculum that is specific to the company’s needs. After completing courses at a local academic institutions participants are placed at the company.
Sourcing Diverse Talent is Smart Business Decision
WOS has a basic motto: It’s one thing to hire diverse talent, it’s another thing to develop it.
And it’s in that development, proven over the past 20 years, backed by processes and systems, that enables Langer to point out that hiring underserved markets is a good business decision.
His success has caused many companies, in a variety of industries, that are having a lot of trouble finding talent, to come knocking on his door. He finds that his organization is expanding the populations that he serves. For example, when one large company in New Jersey needed employees, WOS discovered that there were people with college degrees in the area who could fill these jobs but hadn't done a good job of marketing themselves. In 60 days he found 50 people for this company and worked with the New Jersey Insitute of Technology to ensure these candidates had the correct skillset.
Being the middleman in the job market is a place where Langer has thrived, and it goes back to his own personal history when a door was opened for him to put his talent to use. Langer is paying it forward on a very large scale.