UP FRONT: Establishing roots

Posted on Dec 1, 2015 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

A pilot program launched in the spring of 2015 to bring young professionals to the area is picking up some momentum.

Talent Upload is Fox Cities Regional Partnership’s talent recruitment program in which students from universities around the Midwest come to Appleton to see what the area has to offer them in terms of employment and lifestyle — all expenses paid.

In November, nearly 90 students from 17 universities in the Midwest participated in version 2.0
of Talent Upload, a three-day adventure in which they met with local companies to get a first glance at what their chosen career path has
to offer, and what jobs are available in the Fox Cities to satisfy those career aspirations.

Manny Vasquez, vice president of the Fox Cities Regional Partnership, says the program was created as a response to the needs many organizations have when searching for talent.

“Talent Upload began as a direct response to what our existing employers in the Fox Cities were telling us,” Vasquez says. “The best part of the program is to see the students interact with workers in these fields.”

After its initial run last spring, the Fox Cities Regional Partnership says it will continue this unique recruitment program. Surveys conducted in spring yielded promising results.

When questioned if they would start their career in the Fox Cities before participating in Talent Upload, the likeliness they would relocate here was quite low. After the program, the survey showed a score that almost doubled, showing more of the students would be interested in starting a career here.

“We are trying to market the Fox Cities not only as a great place with lots of career opportunities, but also as a great place to live and play, which is very important for the younger demographic,” Vasquez says.

Not only do the students benefit from the experience, but the companies who work with them say this type of recruitment creates
more of an impact than a traditional job fair.

“We have found a lot of success with this program, and employers really appreciate the fact that the closest thing to this is a job fair on campus,” Vasquez says. “But as we know, you oftentimes cannot get a feel for a community at a job fair, like you can through Talent Upload.”

Business approval

Besides the time employers spend working with and speaking to the students, they also invest in the cost of running the program. Talent Upload is underwritten by the companies that are engaging with the students while they are here.

Appleton Coated, which manufactures coated, uncoated and specialty papers, was a part of the recent Talent Upload event. Company CEO Doug Osterberg says this is a difficult time for employers who are trying to hire employees to fill new and vacant positions.

“Unemployment rates are down low enough where it’s become very difficult to find good talent and that is at all levels from the manufacturing floor through the professional ranks,” Osterberg says. “We have needs for all of these kinds of students and I think Talent Upload is a great idea to bring in that kind of talent from outside the area. We want to introduce them to the good things about the Fox Valley and the job opportunities to retain them long term.”

Besides attracting the four-year college students, Osterberg says there is potential for the Talent Upload program to attract students and potential employees of other educational platforms.

“We also need to do this sort of program for those who are not going through a four-year college,” Osterberg says. “There are a lot of opportunities available here and we need to offer this sort of program at those levels as well to ensure everyone is aware of the potential opportunities.”

On the road to success

Not only is the program receiving local attention for its efforts, the Fox Cities Regional Partnership was honored by the International Economic Development Council for the program, receiving the Best in Show for Excellence in Economic Development Award.
The award recognizes the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships for efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban and rural communities.

Even though the award was given to the partnership, Vasquez says it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the companies that sponsor and participate in the event.

“This was a huge honor for the organization, to win the award,” Vasquez says. “But it was also for
the companies that are supporting the initiative in our community.”

Even though the program is still in the early stages of development, organizers are looking towards the future and analyzing the full potential this program has to offer.

“We are very excited with the direction this program is going,” Vasquez says. “We have a lot of
good encouragement and feedback from our employers and hopefully this can grow into something even bigger that can potentially address different industries also.”