VOL. 131 | NO. 243 | Wednesday, December 7, 2016
‘MemphisWorks’ Jobs, Training App Launches
By Bill Dries
A new “MemphisWorks” app unveiled Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Annual Chairman’s Luncheon is a comprehensive jobs and training effort that took nine months to get in one digital place, with help from an anonymous donor.
The MemphisWorks app is several steps beyond a mobile jobs listing service. It also allows links and posting to resumes as well as provides some entry level job training.
(Greater Memphis Chamber)
The Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce set out to create the most direct route to connect Memphians looking for jobs and career training with employers that have both.
“The beauty of this model is this isn’t talking about a theoretical job,” said Glen Fenter, GMACW’s founding president. “It’s talking about an actual job in the actual community you live in with actual directions and instruction on how to move toward that job. … There’s really probably not another community in the country that will have access to a similar tool.”
GMACW board chairman and Nike business relations director Willie Gregory pushed business leaders in the crowd of more than 1,000 at the luncheon to get on the app and commit to posting their jobs on it.
The app was one of several announcements at the event.
Lausanne Collegiate School officials announced they will open an independent school in the Fujian province of China in August as the flagship of an International Baccalaureate Diploma program for grades k-12.
The school for 1,200 students from around the world including Memphis is a partnership with Xiamen #1 School. Xiamen is putting up $50 million for construction of the school in China and Lausanne will help hire the faculty, school infrastructure, establish the school's strategic plan and lead professional development of the faculty.
The Delta Regional Council also announced Wednesday a $155,000 contribution to promote manufacturing jobs through the regional export effort.
A total of 4,733 jobs in Memphis were on the MemphisWorks app in its beta testing phase last week. And it is updated daily with links to jobs on Monster.com and similar tools.
The app at https://www.MemphisWorks.com has jobs, their locations, and a place to post resumes, as well as videos from workers at those companies and “competency badges” that are basic online quizzes gauging interest and the fundamental knowledge needed. Through videos, links and other interactive features there can be a direct connection.
A group of 50 Memphis employers were heavily involved in building the site. The goal now is to reach many more employers.
“The idea originally was to create a platform where communities and counselors would have access to those same tools that corporations had,” said Mary Hayes, founder and CEO of Workbay, the technology company that did the programming, videos and other features. “The other idea was to throw some of that learning over the fence so that before you went for a job at a big employer you could actually get some of the kind of training that employer was doing once you got hired.”
Fenter said Workbay had been doing mostly online learning for corporations “working to create technology-based solutions for problems that obviously were fairly simplistic, but maybe didn’t have all of the technology invested that it should.”
The undisclosed amount from the anonymous donor broadened the effort and its technological reach. Hayes and her team moved into One Commerce Square to work on a daily basis with GMACW.
Fenter is the first president of the alliance, which was formed by local leaders two years ago. He said the goal is jobs that lead to careers – “attracting Memphians to Memphis jobs.”
GMACW and the government leaders who created GMACW have said thousands of those jobs are waiting to be filled.
The disconnect between those jobs and finding Memphians to fill those jobs surfaced after the city began to slowly emerge from the national recession in 2011 with a set of economic development plums. They included plants that were built by Electrolux and Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. in southwest Memphis as well as Blues City Brewing opening up in the one-time Coors/Stroh’s/Schlitz brewery in Hickory Hill.
Several of those companies said they were beginning to regret their decision because of the open jobs. That’s when the local effort began to fill those jobs and then apply those same methods going forward.
It was a matter of connecting workers with the jobs in a city with a work culture where soft skills can be a problem. There is also a tendency to not look for another job until the current job is gone, even if another job may pay better and have better opportunities for advancement.
The app uses videos to eliminate some of the apprehension that has been inevitable in changing jobs or looking for a job while you have another one – a fear of the unknown that comes with doing something different at a new place or that a step up involves.
“It is often fairly disconcerting for people to wonder what a job is going to be like,” Fenter said. “We want them to be able to see a Memphian that maybe went to their church or graduated from their school or lived in their neighborhood who had that job. And then explain what they do in the job, but also explain why that job and how that job has changed their lives.”
The disconnect also came as elected leaders began in 2011 calling for better paying jobs in the city and county, instead of recruiting any and all prospects looking for a new site to build on.
The MemphisWorks app simplifies a lot of the mystery around where the good jobs are, which companies have those jobs and what skill sets those companies are looking for, Fenter said.
“If I am unemployed or underemployed, how do I draw the straightest line between where I am and one of those jobs?” he said. “If there are ways to speed up the process, the technology can do that.”
For Hayes, it was an expansion that began with basic ideas from Fenter and others. Hayes and her staff then figured out how to do that through the app.
She viewed the online training by itself as a “separate stepping stone.”
“Workbay took all the tools that we had for a learning management system, for a job posting applicant tracking system, for a competency management system, and for corporate social network – and we put them all together in one platform,” she said. “You can see a job. You can see some online learning. You can get some competency badges on your resume. You can show your resume to others in the social network.”
Fenter has also been talking with nonprofit groups including churches that are a vital entry point for Memphians looking for work, particularly after being out of work without a financial net.
Fenter said those entities “want to help people better understand the employment opportunities that exist, but simply don’t always have the best information or the best tools.”
The goal is to embed the app with them as well as employers and agencies like the multi-county Workforce Investment Network that covers Shelby County and Fayette County from Memphis City Hall.
And then there are the millennials – the generation that majors in the intuitive when it comes to technology.
Fenter said for that audience, MemphisWorks is more than a job listing. It’s a sales job.
“A lot of people, particularly millennials, are looking for that job that is at the top of the pyramid,” he said. “They’d like to start there. We want them to understand that the people who have those jobs at the top of the pyramid all started in a first job that was not at the top of the pyramid, but prepared them for the next job and the job after that.”