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Fueling the Talent Pipeline at RAIN 2018

On Wednesday, we gathered the region's innovation and entrepreneurship communities at Quorum to discuss the talent pipeline. Amy Nelson, CEO of Venture for America, kicked off the conference with a keynote describing barriers to entrepreneurship – and how VFA is breaking down these barriers.

Following the keynote, panelists representing FirstHand, Coded by Kids, Small But Mighty Arts, and Waterfront Ventures, moderated by Campus Philly President Deborah Diamond, discussed how each of their programs are filling the talent pipeline, and the role we all play on a larger scale. Here are five takeaways we learned from the discussion:

Choose your partners wisely.

Partnerships are most valuable when they're founded on meaningful relationships. However, these types of relationships can take time to cultivate. Khai Tran mentioned that he met with 200 organizations in Camden, considering how each organization is perceived throughout the community before settling into a partnership. Often, collaboration within the nonprofit world is rushed and contingent upon the goal of funding. Unless there’s buy-in on the mission and the partnership's value, it’s difficult to forge ahead and understand the goals of each organization.

Creating an inclusive talent pipeline is a civil rights issue.

As Sylvester Mobley put it, if entire segments of society are shut out from opportunities within the tech world, we're dealing with a social justice issue. We cannot create a pipeline that is diverse and inclusive if the systemic issue of poverty persists. Environments that are not yet prepared for equity, access and inclusion cannot thrive without the proper preparation. As Tran put it, diversity is being invited to the party – inclusion is being asked to dance once you get there.

Invest in local talent to create a more sustainable economy.

David Clayton mentioned the concept of economic gardening – an entrepreneurial approach that seeks to grow the local economy from within. Rather than searching for talent outside of the area, economic gardening invests in local entrepreneurs that create economic growth in the form of jobs, increased revenues, and a thriving local business sector. Erica Hawthorne-Manon described the value of including artists and creatives on a diverse range of projects, leveraging their project management skills and unique perspectives. More importantly, she emphasizes the importance of including artists in projects where they are being compensated fairly for their work.

Employers can help fuel the talent pipeline in their own way.

If you, the employee, have a set of skills and bring value to an organization that isn't working with you to fulfill your professional goals, what should you do? Find a new job. Our panelists discussed how employers are often willing to work with higher level employees to ensure their work-life balance, but don't regard lower level positions in the same way. Employers should not only be asking themselves if an employee is the right match for an organization, but if their organization is the right fit for the employee.

We can all contribute to the pipeline in our own way.

David Clayton pointed out that every person in attendance at RAIN should be mentoring a young person in some capacity. To quote Sally Ride, "You can't be what you can’t see." Programs like FirstHand and Coded by Kids give students an opportunity to learn about all the diverse career paths they can pursue. But having the exposure to careers from an early age is an important part of making sure we continue to fill the talent pipeline for years to come.