Behind a Grant to an Albuquerque Jobs Program, a Vision of a New Way of Hiring

Rockefeller is a familiar name all across America, but it doesn’t typically pop up in everyday conversation in Albuquerque. The Albuquerque City Council is putting $200,000 into a skills-based hiring program called TalentABQ, and the Rockefeller Foundation just agreed to match it with an additional $200,000.

TalentABQ is an Innovate+Educate workforce assessment program designed to link workers and employers. Two and four-year degrees aren’t all that common in New Mexico, so there’s a need for sustainable jobs that adults can get right now without having to go back to school first. Statistics show that in Albuquerque, about 40 percent of people don’t graduate high school and over 30,000 people are unemployed.

Although it's based in Santa Fe, Innovate+Educate is a national nonprofit, andyou guessed itthe Albuquerque grant is part of something bigger than just a local economy boost in New Mexico. Albuquerque is one of 21 U.S. cities that joined a White House initiative about creating IT jobs. For the past year, Innovate+Educate has been working with the city of Albuquerque to find 350 tech employees.

So who’s the target demographic of this Albuquerque effort? Well, anyone familiar with Rockefeller's work on creating inclusive economies, both in the United States and abroad, won't be surprised that it's youth.  

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The challenge of ensuring opportunity for young people, meanwhile, is also very much on the minds of urban leaders.

"I know that creating opportunities for disconnected youth is a critical part of cultivating our future workforce in Albuquerque, and I applaud the Rockefeller Foundation for their vision and leadership in this area," Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said in a news release.  

This past summer, the CEO of Innovate+Educate, Jamai Blivin, explained how her organization is keen on promoting “behavior changes by the employer” to recognize that job descriptions often don’t match the actual work. Secretarial positions are a great example: Most job postings list a degree as a requirement, yet most current secretaries don't have degrees. Innovate+Educate says it's "fueling nationwide adoption of new industry-driven, competency-based hiring frameworks and alternative jobseeker training and credentialing." This approach has been gaining lots of traction lately amid growing recognition that not only is college out of reach for many young Americans, it often fails to equip students with the skills that employers actually need. 

In explaining its focus on U.S. youth employment, Rockefeller notes that six million Americans ages 16 to 24 are out of work and not in school. One solution the foundation sees is “impact hiring,” which helps employers find good matches for entry-level positions by using data.

It seems like grants are made every day for job training, but Rockefeller says training simply isn’t enough. They key is in the matching, which is why data comes into play, as well as supporting young workers after they secure a job. Rockefeller isn't alone in this work. Another big national funder, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, helped open the Innovate+Educate site in Albuquerque back in 2013.