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Upskilling entry-level employees should be your priority, says Houston expert

Investing in your entry-level employees from the beginning will only continue to positively impact their future, and the ripple effect for businesses. Photo via Getty Images

With Spring Break behind us, many soon-to-be grads will be anxiously applying for their first entry-level jobs or internships; however nearly 50 percent of college graduates don’t feel qualified for entry-level positions and 20 percent feel like they lack basic skills to compete in the job market. It’s important for young professionals to have a solid foundation before the first day on the job, yet 40 percent of graduates say they only occasionally or rarely use skills they learned in college. This is scary for young professionals, and even more terrifying for businesses that are hiring entry-level employers.

Closing young professionals’ education-to-employment skills gap is crucial to the future of work, and how we go about surviving The Great Resignation. Businesses do not have the time, resources or money to teach every entry-level employee basic workforce skills, such as email etiquette and calendar management. According to Indeed, the average time employers spend training entry-level hires is around 33 hours per new employee, but shouldn’t some of the training be the universities’ jobs?

Maybe. However, over the past two years, colleges have been forced to redirect their focus to take care of students' mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic—understandable as between 80 to 90 percent of college students have experienced some mental health strains during the pandemic.

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) puts out a survey that assesses what should be taught in both internship-preparedness and career-readiness programs, to fill the gaps and upskill young professionals with the lessons they need to be learning. These core competencies were incorporated into Ampersand’s training, where young professionals are upskilled in a wide array of transferrable workforce skills that allow immediate success in new workplaces. Our 50-plus hours of curriculum was developed around NACE’s expertise, feedback from hundreds of businesses we spoke to,and my own personal frustrations of running a business for 12 years, which caused me to realize what opportunities and skills I wanted to bring to the new generation of professionals. Ampersand’s curriculum focuses on a variety of fundamental skills, such as: business structure fundamentals, interpersonal conflict resolution, combatting biases in the workplace, proactive communication, handling mental health issues and the art of constructive feedback.

One of the most appreciated courses in the Ampersand curriculum is the lesson on growth and grit mentality. According to psychology professor Angela Duckworth, the blend of passion and perseverance, aka “grit,” forecasts positive long-term success throughout someone’s life. Investing in these young professionals will not only set them up for larger success, but it will also give an equal and foundational opportunity to these youths as they begin developing their skills and growth mentalities. Mastering both basic workforce skills and goal setting allows young professionals to help them decide whether or not a job position is the right fit for them. Additionally, it will also help young professionals set up and successfully navigate five- or 10-year plans to use as bars of measurement in their future work endeavors.

In recognizing the education-to-employment skills gap and the need for excellent career-readiness training, The City of Houston’s Hire Houston Youth program has partnered with Ampersand to upskill thousands of young professionals applying for its summer jobs. Ampersand has created an exclusive curriculum for the Hire Houston Youth program that includes 35 lessons, five modules and four hours of asynchronous career-readiness content. These modules include topics such as professional development, employee rights and basic skill building. As a part of its partnership with Ampersand, Hire Houston Youth is making it mandatory for the young adults applying for a job to go through Ampersand’s platform in order to be eligible for an interview. With the partnership between Ampersand and Hire Houston Youth, the next generation of Houstonians will have a sharp set of career-readiness skills and be able to hit the ground running in any future job.

By recognizing and focusing on these necessary skills early on, while also providing a space for these young professionals to learn and grow, the new generation will have more opportunities and doors open up for them as they begin their careers. Investing in them from the beginning will only continue to positively impact their future, and the ripple effect for businesses.

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Allie Danziger is the co-founder and CEO of Houston-based Ampersand Professionals.

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Building Houston

 
 

With Clutch, connecting brands with creators has never been easier and more inclusive. Photo courtesy of Clutch

An app that originally launched on Houston college campuses has announced it's now live nationwide.

Clutch founders Madison Long and Simone May set out to make it easier for the younger generation to earn money with their skill sets. After launching a beta at local universities last fall, Clutch's digital marketplace is now live for others to join in.

The platform connects brands to its network of creators for reliable and authentic work — everything from social media management, video creation, video editing, content creation, graphic design projects, and more. With weekly payments to creators and an inclusive platform for users on both sides of the equation, Clutch aims to make digital collaboration easier and more reliable for everyone.

“We’re thrilled to bring our product to market to make sustainable, authentic lifestyles available to everyone through the creator economy," says May, CTO and co-founder of Clutch. "We’re honored to be part of the thriving innovation community here in Houston and get to bring more on-your-own-terms work opportunities to all creators and businesses through our platform.”

In its beta, Clutch facilitated collaborations for over 200 student creators and 50 brands — such as DIGITS and nama. The company is founded with a mission of "democratizing access to information and technology and elevating the next generation for all people," according to a news release from Clutch. In the beta, 75 percent of the creators were people of color and around half of the businesses were owned by women and people of color.

“As a Clutch Creator, I set my own pricing, schedule and services when collaborating on projects for brands,” says Cathy Syfert, a creator through Clutch. “Clutch Creators embrace the benefits of being a brand ambassador as we create content about the products we love, but do it on behalf of the brands to help the brands grow authentically."

The newly launched product has the following features:

  • Creator profile, where users can share their services, pricing, and skills and review inquiries from brands.
  • Curated matching from the Clutch admin team.
  • Collab initiation, where users can accept or reject incoming collab requests with brands.
  • Collab management — communication, timing, review cycles — all within the platform.
  • In-app payments with a weekly amount selected by the creators themselves.
  • Seamless cancellation for both brands and creators.
Clutch raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Precursor Ventures, Capital Factory, HearstLab, and more. Clutch was originally founded as Campus Concierge in 2021 and has gone through the DivInc Houston program at the Ion.

Madison Long, left, and Simone May co-founded Clutch. Photo courtesy of Clutch

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