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WiserU Pain Points Blog

The Pain Points blog shares strategies and tactics to solve talent shortages, as well as employer, job seeker, industry, and educational institution perspectives on the problem and how to solve it.

Capable Candidates' paid talent training concept wins award

Kathy Bernard

Kathy Bernard, center, received an ideaBounce® award for her Capable Candidates paid talent training concept.

Kathy Bernard, center, received an ideaBounce® award for her Capable Candidates paid talent training concept.

Kathy Bernard, CEO of, was named one of the winners of the July 2019 Washington University St. Louis Skandalaris Center ideaBounce® contest for her Capable Candidates concept.

Her concept involves contracting with companies facing severe talent shortages to arrange for paid, targeted training of non-traditional candidates to fix their specific weaknesses and prepare them for jobs at the paying companies so that these applicants can be more easily hired.

The Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Washington University of St. Louis fosters creativity, innovation and entrepreneurism. It services all Washington University students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as the Greater St. Louis community.

The ideaBoune® pitch contest and award ceremony was conducted on July 30, 2019 at the Better Family Life Cultural, Educational and Business Center. The event was an opportunity for members of the St. Louis entrepreneurship community to pitch their ideas and network with other community members and business owners.

Original article:

Innovative Strategies To Get St. Louisans Hired And Companies Fully Staffed

Kathy Bernard

To grow into a major employment hub, the St. Louis workforce will need to possess the skills of the future. That’s why organizations like, the Special School District of St. Louis County, Ready by 21 St. Louis, and the St. Charles County Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) are trying new training approaches that are already showing promise.

Jared Arms teaching students at

Jared Arms teaching students at

From age 6 to adult,, trains students fundamental skills and professional experiences to create careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics). Its Tech Camp trains participants on Blockchain & Cryptocurrency, Mobile App & Game Development, Animation & Form Building, and Web Design & Development.

Founder & CEO Jared Arms started after losing several friends to gun violence as a way to bring about positive change.

Special School District of St. Louis County

The College and Career Readiness division of the Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) operates North and South technical high schools, which offer students experiential learning opportunities in more than 30 different programs, including future-focused programs like Pharmacy Science and Health Sciences. SSD also offers adult Applied Technology classes in nursing.

The Special School District oversees the North and South Technical High Schools where students learn real world skills.

The Special School District oversees the North and South Technical High Schools where students learn real world skills.

SSD is preparing students for the increasing demands of the 21st century workforce to ensure that they are fully prepared for college and careers. It does so through real-world classrooms, shadowing, internships, complex projects, clinical rotations, and other immersive experiences.

Missouri Intern Connect

Download the Missouri Employer’s Guide to Internships to hire talent interns at your company.

Download the Missouri Employer’s Guide to Internships to hire talent interns at your company.

Missouri Intern Connect provides an easy way for Missouri students to gain career internship experience while giving employers better access to talent. It was launched by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce to support Missouri businesses struggling to find talented workers and to stem the tide of young workers leaving Missouri for opportunities elsewhere. It is supported by MU Extension — Business Development Program, Missouri Department of Higher Education, Union Pacific, and PHRMA.

Ready by 21 St. Louis

Ready by 21 takes a united approach with area organizations to get young people hired.

Ready by 21 takes a united approach with area organizations to get young people hired.

Ready by 21 St. Louis, an initiative of United Way of Greater St. Louis, is strengthening the region’s ability to support children and youth and to ensure they are career-ready by age 21. It is doing so by coordinating existing education, health and personal development resources to reduce service duplication and increase the impact of dollars invested in community services.

St. Charles County Center for Advanced Professional Studies

The St. Charles County Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) provides top students from all 13 public high schools in St. Charles County with a profession-based learning curriculum. Students are immersed in a professional culture, solving real world problems, using industry standard tools and are mentored by employers, while receiving high school and college credit.

St. Charles CAPS prepares top high school students for the careers of the future.

St. Charles CAPS prepares top high school students for the careers of the future.

It is an example of how business, community and public education can partner to produce personalized learning experiences to educate the workforce of tomorrow, particularly in high skill, high demand jobs in healthcare, global business/entrepreneurship, and technology solutions (IT or creative media).

Learn more about these training programs when I facilitate a panel with leaders from each organization at Venture Café, 4240 Duncan Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110, June 27, 2019, from 6:30-7:30 pm. Panelists include Jared Arms of; David Baker of the Special School District of St. Louis County; Kelly Dyer, Missouri Intern Connect; Katie Kaufmann of Ready by 21 St. Louis; and Nicole Whitesell of the St. Charles County Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS).

Spotlighting St. Louis Companies Solving Their Talent Shortages

Kathy Bernard

St Louis Louis workforce infographic.PNG

When St. Louis Community College produced its latest State of the St. Louis Workforce report, 61% of the tech firms surveyed said that they were experiencing a skilled applicant shortage. Yet when asked what they were doing to solve the problem, a stunning 42% of the tech companies said that they weren’t trying anything (or at least none of the methods listed in the survey, such as training inexperienced workers).

The report noted that their response “may reflect a reticence by technology-intensive service employers to invest in employee development in a very talent-competitive industry.”

Such a failure to respond to talent shortages creates a problem not only for the employer, but for Greater St. Louis. As Hart Nelson, associate vice president of the community college’s Workforce Solutions opined, “These jobs may get created overseas or somewhere else”, but ultimately such a non-response means that “The jobs will go elsewhere.” The good news is that local companies are combating their talent gap using strategies that other organizations can emulate.

For example as reported in Business.comExpress Scripts enlisted LaunchCode to recruit and train Pega developers when it couldn’t find enough qualified candidates.

Through the LaunchCode partnership, Express Scripts secured and trained 24 applicants in Pega; 23 of whom made it into paid apprenticeships with the pharmacy benefits management organization. noted that such, “an innovative solution allowed Express Scripts to create a new pipeline of junior talent they may never have cultivated using traditional recruiting methods.”

How is your company solving your talent shortage? Share your story by emailing We may spotlight your organization’s efforts in a future issue of EQ.

What If St. Louis Addressed The Tech Talent Shortage Better Than Any Other City?

Kathy Bernard

Vacant seat plastic.png

In 2017, St. Louis pulled together a cohesive, region-wide plan to woo Amazon to our area for its second headquarters. Yet despite our best efforts, Amazon’s didn’t give St. Louis further consideration. Why?

Kathy Bernard will facilitate the next free Pain Points talent shortage panel discussion at Venture Café’s Thursday Night Gathering on February 28th from 4:30-5:30 pm in the Havana Room.

We Didn’t Need Amazon to Know We Have A Tech Talent Shortage

According to Amazon officials, it was largely because “St. Louis lacks a blueprint for talent” – meaning we don’t have a sufficient talent pipeline to fill the 50,000 openings that Amazon planned to hire. Providing that many additional workers would be a challenge for most cities, hence why Amazon ended up picking two cities for its second headquarters – Crystal City, VA and Long Island, NY (On Feb. 14, Amazon cancelled plans for the New York headquarters).

But realistically, St. Louis doesn’t have a robust enough talent pipeline to fill our own anticipated tech openings, much less staff Amazon’s second headquarters.

St. Louis expects a 10,000-person tech talent shortage by 2020 while the U.S. deals with a massive 1-million-person tech talent shortage at the same time.

Solving St. Louis’ Tech Talent Shortage

St. Louis is taking steps to gain more qualified applicants, but more must be done. Which leads to a question that if answered by decisive actions, could transform our community: What if St. Louis addressed the tech talent shortage better than any other city?

It would mean thriving businesses, better paying jobs, flourishing neighborhoods surrounding a vibrant downtown, and many more positive changes.

But how do we get there from here? It will take…

  • Area companies hiring and then training promising college and coding school graduates (as well as tech talent with outdated skills) so that they can become fully qualified

  • Colleges improving their hands-on coding coursework to ensure their graduates are truly ready for hire

  • St. Louis opening its eyes to hiring people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, and women into technology

  • Organizations retaining their employees by paying for them to attain technical certifications and degrees

  • Companies being more willing to hire talented immigrants graduating from our local universities

  • More programs, apprenticeships, and internships to radically increase the number and quality of applicants to fill expected openings

And finally, it will take what IT Recruiting Strategist Jason Boone said at a recent talent shortage panel discussion, “St. Louis employers should hire people who can do and not just those who have done otherwise we will continue to lose great talent to other cities.”

Solving talent shortages - Kathy Bernard KMOX interview

Kathy Bernard

St Louis Wikipedia.jpg

Listen to Kathy Bernard discuss how to solve St. Louis' talent shortage on KMOX Total Information AM. 

And here is the interview transcript:

WiserU’s Kathy Bernard talking about solving St. Louis’ talent shortages with KMOX’s Brian Kelly

BRIAN KELLY (BK): One of the issues that you may have heard about on the news this week on KMOX is the talent shortage in the St. Louis area. There are jobs out there, but not the qualified people to fill them and here to talk about that is Kathy Bernard. She is the CEO of She's also a LinkedIn and career trainer and coach. Kathy, thanks for being here this morning.

KATHY BERNARD (KB): Thank you, Brian.

BK: So, tell us about this ... What is the gap that we have here, especially in the St. Louis area?

KB: Because I work with corporations doing LinkedIn training and because I work with colleges and job seekers, I see the problem from all sides, where the employers are always wanting something like three years of experience and the job seekers are like, “Hey I’ve got one year of experience, but I really know what I'm doing. Give me a chance, or at least give me the training that I need so that I can be qualified!” So, there's a disconnect.

BK: And why is there that disconnect? Why can't the companies look for those first-year people who have not quite the experience, but they're young, they are enthusiastic, and they are ready to jump in?

KB: I think it’s because the easiest thing to do is to go find that person with three years of experience and so with traditional recruiting, they tell that recruiters go find that person with 3 years of experience, but there may be people that have 20 years of experience who they are not considering [either].

There may be people that are new grads who are awesome on coding and you're [employers] not thinking about maybe with just a little training you might want to do that because there's an expense in that. There's a time lag getting them up to speed. So, I can see why they do it that way, but as a shortage grows, that’s not always going to be the solution.

BK: So, what is the solution? How do you get the jobs that need filling> How do you fill them?

KB: Well, there’s a couple of things. One is there are organizations, like LaunchCode, Claim Academy, Savvy Coders, and there is a new one in town, Nexul Academy -- they're all doing coding training. A lot of times, people go right to LaunchCode, but there's a lot of other organizations that are also training on Java, .NET and different things – so they could do that. They could do apprenticeships, like they are doing with Nexul Academy or LaunchCode. They could do internships. Try something different -- that's what I would encourage companies to do.

BK:  Is this mainly people who are looking for work, or are they college graduates who have already had a lot of the training, or are they high school graduates or somewhere in between?

KB: Well that’s interesting, because to the college graduates, they [employers/recruiters] say, “You have no hands-on coding experience, so we won’t hire you until you get that.”

And then they tell the coding school grads, “Well, you don't have any college, so come back after you get that,” and so these people go through all this training and then they're [hearing], “You're not quite there.” But that's what really is very frustrating. So, I think maybe the internships and apprenticeships could give them a chance. That’s what I would say and also with seasoned professionals [give them a chance]. Somebody may have been a COBOL expert and run every kind of hardware, but they won't consider them for software [jobs]. I feel the pain of the employers, but we’ve got to try some different things.

BK: It seems like some things have got to give.

KB: Yeah, it really does. And the good news is that St. Louis is really trying to up their game with all kinds of coding schools and with Centriq trying to teach on how to be a help desk person and then there's problems in other areas like science and engineering, so we have to up our game in a lot of different ways.

BK: We’re visiting with Kathy Bernard, the CEO of WiserU. She is a LinkedIn and career trainer and coach. So, if you are somebody interested in getting into [careers], you mentioned that there are a lot of options, but how do you get from that basic training to getting the experience that you need? There's a gap there and I don't know if there's a bridge to fill it.

KB: And one of the things that I tell every college grad and every coding school grad: Do a project. Prove that you can do it, whether that means volunteering at your house of worship, whether you take on something in a nonprofit or just create something on your own so that you can prove you have the abilities -- that really shows the difference between just getting the degree.

BK: What about employers. Are they going out of town to look for some of these [candidates]?

KB: Well, they are sometimes, but something that is really interesting is that I was leading a session at Venture Cafe on this [topic] and Jason Boone from Lockheed Martin was there [on the panel] and he said, “We don't have a location here. I hire people from St. Louis and move them elsewhere because other cities recognize that it's better to hire people who can do than those who have done and he says that if St. Louis doesn't figure this out, our best talent is going elsewhere.

BK: So, this isn’t a situation that is necessarily happening around the country?

KB: Well, It is happening to a certain degree. I helped a client out in Los Angeles I sent a message to 60 of the top [LA] recruiters and said, "Hey this is a hardware guy, but he has learned software, he's got the certifications. Hire him!" And 60 recruiters wouldn't take him seriously. So, if St Louis could figure out how to do this better than anybody else, we could really be the tech hub that we want to be.

BK: And we really have to because we’ve got to fill those jobs and you want to attract people and so if you have to poach them from another city, that’s fine, but let’s get our people working.

KB: Right and when Amazon was looking for their second headquarters, they didn't consider us past the first round because we didn't have a pipeline to get the people we needed into the jobs and it's true -- we don't have enough to fill our current positions, much less get Amazon in town, but we want to be ready for the next time a company like Amazon wants to roll in.

BK: Yeah, we certainly do. OK, so what are our next steps?

KB: Well, things that we can do is companies need to get together with the coding schools, figure out how they can do apprenticeships and internships with them ... maybe pay for training some applicants and retraining of seasoned professionals and just get the conversation going because I think if you start talking to [each other], you find out that, “Hey, that seasoned professional really is very good at coding, give him a chance!”

BK: So, the employers have to be willing to do that. Are you seeing any willingness on their part?

KB: Well, LaunchCode, they’re having a lot of success getting people into their apprenticeship programs, but what’s happening is I'm seeing the other ones [coding schools] that it’s still challenging for them -- the Savvy coders, Claim Academy, CoderVets, all of these, they’re like, “Hey, we're out here! Pay attention to us, too. We have great graduates! Please consider our graduates or please work with us!” And it’s tough with those other ones. LaunchCode has got the great name and they are doing a great job, but other ones should be considered as well.

BK: All right. So where should we go to find out more information and maybe get some advice?

KB: Reach out to me at, but as well, talk to those coding schools like Savvy Coders or whatever and if you're colleges here or not giving people the hands-on experience [needed], maybe the colleges can work with the coding schools so that they have both the head knowledge and the coding school [hands-on abilities].

BK: So, it’s going to take a closer relationship between the employers, the schools, the coding classes and that type. They got to get together and say, “This is what we need -- provide it for us!”

KB: Right and maybe some more events or something where [applicants can show their talent]. You know we have Globalhack here, which is a huge hackathon, but maybe we should do some more things like that where we have tech challenges for people that may not look all that strong on paper could just really excel at hackathon or a similar type of event and then be able to nail that job.

BK: Well, Kathy Bernard, it’s a problem we have to solve.

KB: It definitely is, but I look at it as a positive. If we can solve it, we will be the tech hub that we want to be.

BK: We'll call it an opportunity.

KB: Right, exactly!

BK: There you go! Kathy, thank for joining me on Total Information AM.

Have an opinion on how to solve talent shortages in your community? Share your thoughts by commenting to this post!

Kathy Bernard speaks, facilitates, and writes about ways to solve talent shortages.