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