StepUp Durham strives to train and help people find jobs – this is one woman’s success story

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DURHAM – The outbreak of the coronavirus in 2020 has led to many disruptions, including the closure of businesses and the issuance of layoffs of organizations.

For many in Durham, there was uncertainty. For an adult worker, the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a layoff.

Sarah, who told WRAL TechWire the dismissal was due to forces beyond her control, immediately began looking for work. But faced with the uncertainty of the future, many companies are not hiring. She worked with a temporary help recruiting company and got a contract job in November 2020, only to see that contract canceled when the company sold the division she worked in to a new buyer in January 2021. She chose not to continue employment contracts. employees under the agreement.

Step Up Durham

Jobless again, and again through what Sarah described as not her fault, she turned to the resources that were available to her, including a resource fair in late January hosted in partnership by the Durham Workforce Development Board and Durham Tech.

Enter StepUp Durham

The fair, held virtually, included StepUp Durham, who works with its attendees as they seek stability, often through employment. Sarah met an employee of the organization, which had recently moved much of its program delivery model from in-person training and support to a virtual environment, due to the onset of the new pandemic. of coronavirus.

The organization, which offers free job preparation training, one-on-one coaching and other workforce development programs, has moved much of its work online.

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It was then that Sarah met the organization. Just in time to participate in one of the organization’s newly virtual programs that would provide training and support in the midst of a job search.

“It was easy to decide,” Sarah, who asked WRAL TechWire not to share her last name. “It was free, and it was on Zoom.”

But expectations were high, Sarah said. Participants had to be on time, on video and dressed for business.

“No matter why you are in the situation you find yourself in, when you are unemployed the staff at StepUp are very welcoming and want to help you succeed and overcome any obstacles that may stand in your way,” recalls Sarah.

A few weeks after the program ended, Sarah started a new job, working as an office manager for a leading supplier of fuel and fluid handling systems.

How StepUp helps others

Sarah’s success isn’t the only achievement the organization could share, and by some metrics, StepUp Durham program director Tim Wollin told WRAL TechWire, the organization has become even more successful after putting implemented a technology that allowed him to follow his programs virtually.

“We are now using Zoom, Calendly and the Google suite,” Wollin said. “As the world has moved to a virtual platform, we have found that these tools allow us to successfully reach our participants. “

The nonprofit, with an annual operating budget of less than $ 800,000, also launched a YouTube channel and partnered with a startup, TalkHiring, whose founder attended Duke University, to improve the training experience of its participants, Wollin said.

All of these services and access to technological infrastructure are free for participants, Wollin noted. The association has worked with more than 1,000 people since its founding in 2015, Wollin said, and has secured more than 500 placements.

One of them, in 2021, was Sarah.

But the organization also improved its placement rate.

“Compared to our last fiscal year, we’re about 20% more effective at helping people get jobs in the current fiscal year,” Wollin said. “We are on average 34 days before employment,” he added.

Talk Hiring also helps

The organization is also working with start-up Talk Hiring, founded in 2018 by Duke University alumnus Harris Osserman, who is also the company’s CEO, to add mock interview software to the experience. some participants. StepUp Durham was the company’s first customer, and the company’s software allows people to receive feedback on their mock interviews. The two organizations have teamed up to translate the technology platform into Spanish, to better meet customer needs, Osserman noted.

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“On average, StepUp Durham participants saw a 76% improvement when comparing their performance in their first and last mock interviews,” Osserman said, in an interview with WRAL TechWire. This comes from 226 mock interviews that have been completed to date, an average of 2.4 interviews on the platform, per program participant, Osserman noted.

“Talk Hiring allowed participants and employment counselors to work more closely together on their interview skills,” Wollin said. “It’s one thing to just have someone tell you about ways to improve yourself. It’s another thing, a powerful thing, when you can listen to / watch yourself and see not only how you could do things better, but also celebrate the ways that you are already great.

The partnership helps job seekers, Osserman said. And not just those in Durham.

“StepUp Durham has been a great partner for us and they have greatly influenced how the product works today,” said Osserman. “StepUp Durham supports some job seekers involved in the justice system, and they wanted an interview practice for interview questions about incarceration. We were able to add them and create custom comments for these questions.

Challenges still exist for job seekers in Durham and elsewhere. “Many of those we serve don’t have access to technology or reliable Internet service, sometimes both,” Wollin said. “We are now working to secure the laptops that would allow us to take our workshops to different communities that could not receive services in any other way. “

Other barriers include transportation, a lack of child care facilities, and a lack of stable housing, Wollin noted. But access to technology and the internet is a major concern, he noted. “Without these people can’t even start looking for a job.”

Osserman described another central problem: The talent acquisition market doesn’t just require Internet access, it often requires desktop or laptop access. This is a problem, as low income job seekers are more likely to search for a job on a mobile phone.

Still, mobile job seekers complete 53 percent fewer applications than desktop and laptop seekers, as filling applications takes an average of 80 percent longer, Osserman said, referring to a report. Glassdoor study.

Long application process

Meanwhile, the duration of the job demand is inversely correlated with the job wage, Osserman said. The result? The lowest-paying jobs have the longest applications, according to the same Glassdoor study.

“Therefore, low-income job seekers are more likely to search for a job on a mobile phone, apply for jobs on a mobile phone, take longer to apply for each job due to the slow pace of mobile job applications and lower job applications. paid jobs are longer, ”Osserman said, noting that this is a huge problem in the talent market.

And the Triangle job market is, and has been, very difficult to navigate, Sarah said.

“A lot of the requests are made online,” she said. “I know there are a lot of jobs available, but I also know it’s probably hard for people to connect with the demand.

“Things change all the time, people are working from home, people are adjusting their schedules and people are coming from quarantine or being home with their family and trying to get back to a regular work routine- life. balance, ”she said. “It is not easy.”

For job seekers, StepUp Durham will be offering a fall cohort for its Step2 program, an 8-week program focused on personal development, financial education and career paths, Wollin said, noting that one One of the benefits of the family-oriented program is the provision of bank accounts for adults and their children of up to $ 352, and a graduation bonus of up to $ 100 for each adult.

The organization actively recruits volunteers, including resume writers, fake interviewers, and what the organization calls “co-partners,” who work side-by-side with participants throughout Stage 2.

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