Updated: Oct 30
2020 marks the start of a new decade. What was supposed to be an epic beginning took a major pivot when the whole world had to shut down temporarily and rethink how to survive in a remote setting.
Work, school, therapy, social gatherings—the world's remote now.
Even the most resilient startups have to pause to rethink their strategy. I do not think any one of us could have predicted the amplitude of Covid-19, forcing us to adapt to a new virtual reality and finding ways to make ends meet. With the national unemployment rate in the US at 8.4%, there is no shortage of job seekers. How are startups and larger companies identifying and assessing quality candidates for job openings, and how are candidates differentiating themselves from the rest?
Hiring for skills over pedigree is an ideal solution. Non-traditional education is now the fastest way for folks to upskill and reskill at home. You can change your career faster than you can change your major with the abundance of resources available online. General Assembly is one of them.
Since 2011, General Assembly has grown from a NY-based startup to a global education company with over 30 campuses worldwide, closing the global skills gap by helping individuals make career transitions in 3 months or less through bootcamps in Coding, Data, Design, Business, and more.
Beyond the statistics, I have met and interacted with many General Assembly students and alumni at the Boston campus. They come from such diverse professional backgrounds, ranging from industries like retail, hospitality, academia to mechanical engineering, project management, and graphic design to name a few. Their success stories are very heartwarming, especially when you witness first-hand how motivated individuals can pause their lives for 3+ months to go back to school full-time in order to reinvent themselves.
I remember William who moved 7,000+ miles from South Africa to take the full-time
coding program in Boston and is now a Software Engineer. I remember Michelle, an expectant mother during the program, who left her job in structural engineering to pursue a career in Big Data.
I remember Claudiane, whose background in healthcare combined with her newly acquired design skills from General Assembly jump-started her career as a UX Designer at a Boston telemedicine company.
I remember Emma, who became a Product Manager after General Assembly’s part-time course and continued to learn at General Assembly through employer sponsorships. These are just a few examples of untapped talent landing opportunities at local companies.
There are many more stories, and there should be more. But it does require a shift in perspectives on what quality talent looks like.
Quality talent is more than a glossy CV; it is an individual with grit who can persevere and adapt quickly to shifting priorities like the impact of a pandemic. Quality talent represents those who can outperform on any tasks when given an equitable opportunity to be considered for a job opening. Things that make General Assembly unique, which not enough people know about, are its social impact initiatives and corporate partnerships.
General Assembly was acquired by The Adecco Group, the world's second largest Human Resources provider and temporary staffing firm, in 2018. With this acquisition, General Assembly is able to collaborate with brands like Vettery to connect General Assembly jobseekers with companies on their talent recruitment platform, at no cost to employers.
General Assembly has more ability to extend resources to underserved communities. Here are examples of past and new partnerships General Assembly is leveraging to close the skills gap in our economy. By developing untapped talent, General Assembly is able to connect hiring companies like startups with diverse candidates they might otherwise overlook.
2019 (May): Microsoft and General Assembly are working together to close skills gaps in AI. The initiative will create standards and credentials for AI skills, upskill and reskill 15,000 workers by 2022, and create a pool of AI talent for the global workforce.
2020 (April): General Assembly joins the The Future of Work Initiative along with University of Louisville, Humana, and the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council to offer self-paced data skills training for free. Through this initiative, General Assembly is working with Louisville to prepare their city, businesses and residents, particularly those who have not traditionally been a part of the tech economy, for the next data revolution.
2020 (September): General Assembly is partnering with The Greater Sacramento Economic Council to develop a digital skills program with the Greater Sacramento Urban League and offer free job training for 100 members of underserved communities.
Workforce development is not a private or public sector problem; it requires a joint effort to solve it. The impact is greater when we work in unison.
There is no shortage of good talent, but we need to be intentional about finding them from diverse avenues. Let’s not overlook candidates from non-traditional backgrounds because sometimes they can be the best hires for companies.
To create a better workforce where equitable experiences are possible, we need to start taking a proactive approach to identifying candidates from diverse pools and creating learning pathways to employment.
It is never too late to make a career change, and for anyone considering making the next move, there is never a better time than now because the future of work is here.
Contributed by Mei Li Zhou
Mei Li has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Barnard College of Columbia University. As a Senior Partnerships Specialist, she connects hiring companies to General Assembly’s diverse pool of candidates in the US Northeast Region, identifying opportunities to bridge the gap between employers and jobseekers. She also works with General Assembly’s local marketing teams to extend educational resources to the Greater Boston community. Prior to her current role, she was a nonprofit fundraiser at Year Up. Mei Li is a DEI advocate and an active member of the Boston Chinatown community. Headshot by Manny Correia