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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

 
 

VR training startup, HTX Labs, has raised funding from an outside investor for the first time. Courtesy of HTX Labs

HTX Labs, a Houston-based company that designs extended reality training for military and business purposes, announced last week that it has raised its first outside capital.

The company has received a $3.2 million investment from Cypress Growth Capital. Founded in 2017, HTX Labs — developer of the EMPACT Immersive Learning Platform — has been granted funding from the Department of Defense as well as grown its client base of commercial Enterprises. The platform uses virtual and extended reality that "enables organizations to rapidly create, deploy, measure, and sustain cost-effective, secure, and centralized immersive training programs, all within engaging, fully interactive virtual environments," per a news release.

“We have been looking to secure outside capital to accelerate the growth of our EMPACT platform and customer base but we hadn’t found the right partner who provided an investment vehicle that matched our needs,“ says HTX Labs CEO Scott Schneider in the release. “We found everything we were looking for in Cypress Growth Capital. They have a non-dilutive funding model that aligns with our capital expectations and have the level of experience that really makes this smart money.

"Cypress has a decade-long track record of success in helping emerging software and services companies achieve scale," he continues. "It is clear that the team’s collective entrepreneurial and operating experience will be of tremendous benefit to us as we focus on expanding our customer base in a very intentional way.”

The fresh funding will go toward growing and scaling the company's operations — both within the current Department of Defense and expansion opportunities into key commercial markets, like heavy industry, manufacturing, and higher education. Additionally, the funding will support increased customer adoption.

“Scott and his team have built an exceptional business that is poised for dramatic growth,” says Cypress Partner Pat McCaffrey in the release. “HTX Labs’ modern, immersive training solution provides clients with a force multiplier for modernizing training and an unmatched ROI.”

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