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VOL. 133 | NO. 8 | Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Connection Point

Alumni901 works to get candidates, employers together

By Andy Meek

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One of the most-clicked pages on the Choose901 website is “Jobs of the Week,” which in recent days listed open positions like a marketing manager for the Memphis Redbirds and a recruiting manager for Youth Villages, among others.

Jessica Hardy, left, and Timothy Gibson, center, greet attendees at a recent Alumni901 event at Clayborn Temple Downtown. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

Along those same lines, the Choose901 team – which pursues a pro-Memphis mission through everything from positive media to talent recruitment – also keeps hearing from organizations that they need talent and new workers but don’t always know where to find them.

Enter Alumni901, a new Choose901 pilot program that’s been launched to connect alumni of four Memphis-area schools to employers in the city, and hopefully job opportunities.

The four schools are New Hope Christian Academy, Collegiate School of Memphis, Soulsville Charter School and St. George’s. The ambition is to eventually go beyond that first pool of institutions, but Luke Pruett, recruiting director at Choose901’s parent organization City Leadership, said the idea was to start there because the infrastructure is already there at those four.

“We’ve partnered with schools that already have the capabilities set up to care for their alumni,” he said. “They have people on the ground in the school who are tracking data related to where their alumni are and who are maintaining relationships with them. “What we want to come in and do is encourage them to choose Memphis with their future and hopefully over time expedite the process of them getting into their chosen career field.”

Alumni901 hosted a networking dinner recently at Clayborn Temple to connect alumni and representatives of a range of employers, from Nike Inc. to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. In all, about 20 organizations and 100 alumni took part, before heading to a Memphis Grizzlies game together.

The new effort is meant to address both a disconnect between job applicants and employers and to push back against some lingering misperceptions about the city, Pruett and other staffers say. He points, for example, to national data that indicates widespread increases in ACT scores and college admittance and an increased level of achievement out of urban students from low-income families.

Choose901 staffers, who do a lot of work outside the city recruiting and selling people on the benefits of choosing Memphis, say they run into an assumption that there’s a scarcity of jobs in Memphis.

Employers and job seekers interact with each other at the Alumni901 dinner last week at Clayborn Temple. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

“We’re trying to find these alumni jobs and keep them here,” says Joi Taylor, City Leadership’s alumni coordinator. “We want to build community between these employers and the alumni, because there’s no connection point between them. They don’t know about each other. That’s where Alumni901 comes in.”

The pilot program is still new, so the organization is hoping to see by this summer that it’s begun to make a dent in addressing the mismatch between job applicants and employers with positions to fill.

New staffers are also being brought on to help formalize and grow the Alumni901 effort.

“I think we have an opportunity to sort of open up people’s minds about who they think is an ideal candidate for a job,” said Lisa Williams, who handles public relations for Choose901/City Leadership. “I think there’s an opportunity to expose them to talent they don’t know about. We have people who, with the right investment and right training, could be a really good fit.”

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