The Underemployment Trap: Why Your First Job Is Critical

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The Underemployment Trap: Why Your First Job Is Critical

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Avenica

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Employment rates in the U.S. have risen every year since the Great Recession of 2008–2009. And today unemployment is at near-historic lows. While that’s great news for many job seekers, hiding behind those gaudy numbers is a phenomenon that’s far less positive—one that impacts young job seekers most of all.

It’s underemployment.

Underemployment happens when someone is in a job for which they are overqualified—the typical situation is a bachelor’s graduate in a role that doesn’t require a degree. Consider the cliché of the Art History major working as a barista. Or a “foot-in-the-door” job, such as an IT grad working the help desk or a sports performance major folding towels at a health club. Underemployment also happens when someone would prefer to work full time but can only secure part-time employment.

First-job underemployment has lasting effects

Where you start has a big impact on where you end up. A 2018 study found that 43% of new college grads were underemployed in their first job—earning an average of $10,000 less than grads who find employment appropriate for their qualifications. And this wage gap compounds year after year, so workers who are underemployed at the start of their careers are more likely to remain that way, even decades later—stuck in a rut of lower-paying, lower-prestige jobs.

Underemployment obviously has negative consequences for individual workers, but there are big ripple effects as well. Underemployed workers will have less income overall, which means they may be less likely to pay off their student loans, buy a home, go on vacation, or go out to dinner—all of which impacts the health of the broader economy.

Underemployment seems to be growing

A certain amount of underemployment will always be with us. Some new grads take more time to find their career path. Others may choose careers that don’t fit their area of study. Still others may lack the motivation or interest in pursuing roles appropriate for their credentials.

Although researchers and experts differ on the exact numbers around underemployment, most agree that it’s growing. Why?

Multiple factors are at work. College enrollment has grown since 2000—which means more new graduates are pursuing a finite pool of jobs. Older generations of workers are holding onto their jobs longer, further reducing the number of higher-skill positions. The trend toward contract, gig, or part-time roles means many recent graduates find themselves with less than a full-time work. And the skills required for today’s jobs are more complex and changing rapidly, which means many graduates are leaving school without the abilities employers need.

Safeguarding your career against underemployment

The rise of underemployment is definitely cause for concern. But there are things you can do to protect yourself and your career. Here are just a few:

  • Select the right major. When it comes to underemployment, your field of study makes a big difference. The fields least likely to be underemployed include engineering, computer science, nursing, and education. The areas of highest underemployment? General liberal arts, performing arts, security and law enforcement, leisure and hospitality, and fitness. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York keeps fascinating stats on underemployment by major.
  • Get real about what employers need. Whatever your area of study, students or recent grads shouldn’t assume their degree will guarantee a job in their field. Do your research on specific jobs, salaries, skills, and employer needs in your profession of interest.
  • Seize opportunities to upskill. Employers still value the communication, analytical, and critical thinking skills that college graduates have. But hiring managers often look for specific, technical abilities as well. Building these “last mile” skills—whether through online tools, volunteering, or technical classes—can make all the difference.
  • Explore Avenica. We don’t like to toot our own horn, but preventing underemployment is kind of a big thing for us. Avenica works to help professionals identify their career goals, interests, and skills and then match them to opportunities that are the right fit.

Whether you’re still in college, mere months away from graduation, or already out in the working world, underemployment may be lurking. But there are steps you can take to keep it at bay. Educate yourself about this trend and you’ve taken a big step toward building a successful career for the long term.

Looking for a new role? Browse our current job openings and apply today!

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What You Need to Know About Today’s Entry-Level Workforce

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What You Need to Know About Today’s Entry-Level Workforce

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Hiring for any role is complicated. But hiring at the entry level brings special challenges—so many that 41% of employers say entry-level roles are the hardest to fill. Why? Candidates don’t have track records. They don’t have work references you can check. They don’t have previous work accomplishments to show you. Plus, most of today’s college graduates (55%, in fact) will leave their first job within a year—up to 20% of new hires may quit within their first 45 days.

A New Generation (GenZ) Enters the Workforce. But They’re Not Alone.

On top of those daunting figures, employers today are anxious about welcoming a new cohort (hello, GenZ!)—who may have very different ideas and expectations about what a first job should be—into a workforce where different demographic groups (Boomers, Millennials, GenX) sometimes struggle to get along. GenZ is by far the biggest group in this category—they will soon make up 20% of the workforce. But entry-level roles may be filled by other groups, too: career changers, parents returning to work after raising families, or workers transitioning from the military to the private sector.

Whoever your new hires are, there are some important things you can do to help them be successful—during the hiring process, once they are employees, and beyond.

What You Need to Know About Today’s Entry-Level Workers

  • Most of Them Are True Digital Natives. While Millennials can tell you what a VHS tape is, the newest crop of young adults (Generation Z, born after 1996) have always lived in a world with email, the Internet, and phones that could do lots more than just make calls.
    • Guard your reputation. Entry-level job seekers will carefully research your company, including on review sites, where you can’t control the message. Your reputation is everything, so develop a strategy for assessing and responding to online reviews.
    • Power up your social media presence. More than 54% of GenZ job seekers expect to find their next gig through social media, and they favor channels like SnapChat and Instagram. Will they find you there? And how will you keep them engaged after they’re hired?
    • Enable personal connections. Although this is the most tech-connected generation of workers, 74% actually prefer connecting with colleagues face to face.
    • Don’t assume they know your tech. Yes, most entry-level workers today have been surrounded by technology all their lives. But that doesn’t mean they know how to use your office systems—benefits portals, video-conferencing systems, or your inventory-management tools.
  • They Were Shaped by the Great Recession. GenZ watched their parents struggle with layoffs, foreclosures, and shrinking wealth. Older entry-level workers (returning moms and dads, military veterans) experienced those scary times firsthand, too. And they learned some valuable lessons about security, stability, and planning for the future. Only 56% of GenZ thinks they’ll enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents. And 35% say they plan to start saving for retirement in their 20s.
    • Help them grow their skills. Skills mean employability, and today’s entry level workers know it. According to one recent survey, 2019 college graduates ranked professional development as the most important factor in choosing a job. A survey from a few years ago found that while 80% of entry-level hires expected their new employer to offer formal training, less than half of those companies did so. You can use training to set your company apart and improve your retention rates.
    • Show them there’s a path forward. Entry level hires want to see that they have opportunities to advance—and that you’ll help them do it. Earn their loyalty by taking time to learn about their individual strengths, setting clear goals for growth, and following through. This could also mean setting up internal mentoring or networking programs.
  • They value transparency. As a group, GenZ wants authenticity and accountability. They’ve grown up with unprecedented access to information, and they don’t want their employers to keep things from them. This holds true for older entry-level workers, too. They want to be in the loop, and they don’t want spin.
    • Show them why they matter. Today’s entry-level workers don’t want to be cogs in a machine. Help them see how the work they’re doing impacts your company’s business.
    • Provide regular feedback. Especially as they transition—from school, the military, or being at home with kids—they are likely to be unsure of their performance. Conduct regular, informal feedback through check-ins, conversations, project debriefings, and more.
    • Give them clear goals they can achieve. At the entry level, workers are hungry for the sense of accomplishment that comes with a job well done. That’s why it’s important to provide a combination of short- and long-term goals that are challenging but reachable—like managing a small project or delivering a presentation by themselves.

Don’t Rely on Stereotypes. And Be Patient.

There are broad characteristics that may hold true across groups, but no generation is a monolith. GenZ is the most diverse cohort to ever enter the workforce—in fact, the most diverse generation in U.S. history. Don’t assume that your fresh-out-of-college hires will adhere to all the stereotypes you may have read about.

And whatever age your entry-level hires, patience is key. Entry level workers make mistakes. They won’t understand every aspect of your business right away. And they may take time to adapt their behavior, expectations, and attitudes as they transition into the world of work. But you’ll need to adapt, too.

Looking for a new role? Browse our current job openings and apply for a role today!

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Upskilling: What Is It—And How Can It Change your View of Hiring?

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Upskilling: What Is It—And How Can It Change your View of Hiring?

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Avenica

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U.S. employers have hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs open, but many struggle to find candidates with the right technical skills to fill them. Meanwhile, many new college grads are struggling to launch productive careers because they don’t have the specific skills—data analytics, coding, and digital marketing, for example—that employers really need.

This is the skills gap.

Whatever your industry, you’ll soon find yourself looking across the skills gap, wondering how to get to the other side. You won’t be alone. A recent study found that 79% of CEOs worry that their employees’ current skills aren’t enough to meet quickly changing workplace needs. A McKinsey Global Institute report found that up to 375 million workers worldwide may need to find new occupations as digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to disrupt the workplace.

The skills gap is real. And it’s kind of a big deal.

Fortunately, there’s a powerful tool to address it.

The Solution: Upskilling

Put simply, upskilling means adding new skills to a worker’s capabilities. It could involve traditional learning methods like university courses, mentoring, or apprenticeship programs. Or it could take a newer form, like “microlearning” (targeted training delivered in short bursts), augmented-reality-enabled learning, gamification, or mobile apps.

The methods vary, but effective upskilling is specific, based in real-world examples (no theoretical noodling here), and immediately applicable.

And unlike the traditional university degree, upskilling is never “one and done.”

Companies are taking the lead

Remember those CEOs worried about the skills gap? Well, they realize that they can’t rely on governments, universities, or workers themselves to deliver upskilling resources.

So businesses are taking the lead. For example, AT&T has committed more than $1 billion to retrain workers over the next several years. Amazon has announced a $700 million investment in upskilling its workforce—training more than 100,000 employees to move into new roles. In Amazon’s case, they’ve built their own in-house tech academy to teach skills in machine learning, robotic systems, and cloud computing.

Your company doesn’t have to have Amazon-level resources to provide effective upskilling. For many organizations, the answer is to find the right partner. For some, that’s a traditional university or vocational school. For others, it could be a private-sector partner. At Avenica, we help companies fill entry-level professional positions by matching them with new college graduates who are smart, eager to learn, and ready to get to work. And if they don’t check every skill box? We offer innovative upskilling to get them there.

Which reveals another benefit of upskilling.

Upskilling hidden benefit: A new way to look at hiring

Upskilling can increase productivity and profitability. It can be a powerful recruitment and retention tool (in a recent survey of Generation Z workers, 91 percent said professional training is an important factor when choosing an employer). It can even make a company more attractive to investors.

But there’s another powerful benefit: it can help you rethink the way you hire. When technology is changing constantly, hiring for specific skills isn’t the best strategy. It makes more sense to hire for the right person—and then upskill them with the skills you need.

As Scott Dettman, CEO of Avenica, puts it in his article for Training magazine, “The secret behind great companies is, and always has been, great people. The right people, receiving the right support, have the power to drive limitless growth and innovation.”

Lifelong learning, for employees AND employers

The traditional learning path, at least for professional/managerial roles, has been the four-year university. And there is good data to show that a college degree is still a good investment.

But that’s just the beginning.

To succeed in the future, everyone will have to be a lifelong learner. And every employer will need to offer a constant stream of upskilling resources to keep their employees current with ever-evolving technological change.

Looking for a new role? Browse our current job openings and apply today!

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Scott Dettman Interview with Authority Mag on Creating a More Equitable Society

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Scott Dettman Interview with Authority Magazine on Creating a More Equitable Society

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Alexandra Spirer of Medium’s publication Authority Magazine interviewed Avenica CEO Scott Dettman to discuss the steps business leaders can take to create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society.

Dettman talks about his philosophy on leadership and shares his thoughts on the importance of equity at all levels of business and what Avenica is doing to help close the opportunity gap.

“One thing we know is there isn’t enough diversity and equity in just about every level of business, from the entry-level to executive leadership. Being in an industry so heavily focused on workforce development and hiring, we are uniquely positioned and feel an obligation to help solve this problem.”

Read the full interview on Authority Magazine site.

Looking for a new role? Browse our current job openings and apply today!

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KARE11 interview with Scott Dettman on professional development during the pandemic

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KARE11 interview with Scott Dettman on professional development during the pandemic

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Avenica

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Avenica CEO Scott Dettman joined Lauren Lemancyk on KARE11 to share advice for people seeking professional advancement during the time of COVID.

“Mentorship is another way to think about support and sponsorship,” Dettman said. “The people who persevere through difficult times are those who turn to their networks. For those just entering the workforce, mentors can help you navigate the first steps of finding a job. Mentors help you think outside the box. It gives you the chance to bounce ideas off another person and ask questions.”

Watch the full interview for more insights.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

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Avenica CEO Scott Dettman Talks Job Search Strategies with CNN’s Lynn Smith

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Avenica CEO Scott Dettman Talks Job Search Strategies with CNN’s Lynn Smith

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Avenica

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Avenica CEO Scott Dettman went #InstagramLive with Lynn Smith, CNN HLNTV anchor and host, to talk job search strategy, networking, and more during the pandemic.

Check out the full video HERE.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please apply now to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

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9 Keys for Avoiding a Bad Hire

We’ve pretty much all been there. Your new hire is struggling. You’ve done all the right training and onboarding, followed up with coaching and constructive feedback, but the work isn’t good, and the rest of your team knows it. Not only is your new hire getting dirty looks from coworkers, but a few of those are now aimed at you. But you don’t want to admit your mistake, and you definitely don’t want to go through the hiring process again. They’re going to catch on eventually. Right?

Probably not.

Made a Bad Hire? Act fast.

Bad hires, no matter the position or level, can negatively affect your team’s productivity in so many ways:

  • Poor work quality
  • Missing project deadlines
  • Poor work attendance
  • Don’t work well with others
  • Abilities don’t match what they represented during hiring  process
  • Negative attitude
  • Unprofessional behavior including bullying or harassment
  • Criminal or unethical activity including theft or fraud

A bad hire can do a lot of damage (keep reading to see how much). The sooner you act, the better—for you and your entire organization. Start documenting the situation, having difficult conversations about performance, and laying the groundwork for termination.

How Big is the Problem?

Really big. A Career Builder survey reported that 74% of companies have made a bad hire.  And that’s probably low. Anyone who’s ever worked anywhere can tell you a story about a disastrous hire in their organization. Even the most successful companies aren’t immune: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has said that bad hires have cost his company, “well over $100 million.”

Which brings us to…

Bad hires are expensive. Here’s why.

In a Career Builder survey, employers reported losing an average of $14,900 for each bad hire. The U.S Department of Labor estimated that a bad hire can cost up to 30% of that employee’s first-year salary. Other estimates say that figure is more like 50%. And some have gone as high as $240,000 for higher-level roles.

Where’s all that money going?

Measurable costs. These are the hard dollars you can easily see: recruitment and advertising fees for job posting, relocation fees, and training fees. Staff time, including the hours put in by HR and hiring managers. There could be costs for a severance package or outplacement services. And in the worst cases, there might be legal expenses.

Hidden costs. These are hard to measure, but they’re much more serious. A bad hire can infect morale, hinder team performance, and harm workplace culture. It can derail important projects, alienate key customers, weaken your company’s brand image, and cause you to miss out on big opportunities. There are also emotional costs like stress, resentment, and burnout.

And then you add in the cost of replacing a bad hire—now you’re talking serious money.

Why so many bad hires?

Employers spend more time than ever in hiring (research from Glassdoor shows that the time employers spend on interviews has almost doubled since 2009), but bad hires are as common as ever—maybe even more common. Why? Low unemployment has made it a job-seeker’s market, so employers often feel rushed to land a candidate. Another reason, as The Harvard Business Review points out, is that workers change jobs much more often than in previous generations (therefore internal promotions aren’t as common) and companies today are constantly having to hire outside talent; they’re in scramble mode.

And an unexpected result: they’re not as good at hiring for entry-level jobs.

How to Avoid Making a Bad Hire

This is a tough situation, but you can improve your odds. Here’s how

  • Hire for the person and their potential, not the resume. Too often, employers hire according to a checklist of technical skills rather than looking at core values and so-called soft skills—things like integrity, professionalism, collaboration, and communication. These things are often essential, you can always train for the rest.
  • Build a standardized hiring process. If you don’t have one, you’re five times more likely to make a bad hire, according to a study by Brandon Hall Group and Glassdoor. A good process includes powerful tools for both HR and hiring managers—including standard interview questions, peer-to-peer evaluations, and more.
  • Design a welcoming and robust onboarding program. If you have a consistent showing-the-ropes program, you can improve retention by 82%, according to the same research cited above.
  • Do a thorough background check. This service isn’t free, but it’ll save you money and heartache in the long run.
  • Get an objective perspective. Involve third parties in the hiring process—this could be a full service partner that screens and matches candidates for you (hey, Avenica does that!). Or even another employee from an unrelated department. You need somebody who can give you unbiased feedback.
  • Be clear and honest about your company and culture. Many times, it’s not that the employee is a poor worker, just that they’re not the right fit for the role or your company.
  • Let your candidates see what the job is like. Again, sometimes a bad hire is just a mismatch. Give candidates an unvarnished view of what the role is like. Some companies (Google, Marriot) have turned to gamification, letting candidates play a game that simulates the skills and challenges involved in the job.
  • Trust in your recruiting professionals. Not everyone is great at interviewing and identifying potential, especially in entry-level candidates. This is the time to let your HR professionals and partners do their jobs.
  • Measure your hiring success. No company would spend millions on an ad campaign without measuring how effective it was. But according to the Harvard Business Review, only about a third of U.S. companies monitor whether their hiring practices lead to good employees.

Hiring will never be a perfect process. But there are two key things to remember. You don’t have to be stuck with a bad hire—act quickly and you can minimize the damage. Secondly, there are clear steps you can take to avoid future disasters.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please apply now!

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Scott Dettman Shares Job Search Tips on ‘Jazzed About Work’ Podcast

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Scott Dettman Shares Job Search Tips on ‘Jazzed About Work’ Podcast

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Biography

Avenica CEO Scott Dettman has long been concerned about the under-employment of college graduates. He joined Bev Jones on Jazzed About Work, a WOUB Public Media podcast to talk job search strategy for graduates, the importance of finding the right career fit, and how Avenica is helping connect grads to meaningful career opportunities.

Listen HERE!

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please apply now!

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Scott Dettman joined Jeff Wagner of WCCO | CBS to discuss TheDream.US partnership

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Scott Dettman joined Jeff Wagner of WCCO | CBS to discuss TheDream.US partnership

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Avenica

Biography

Avenica CEO Scott Dettman joined Jeff Wagner of WCCO | CBS to discuss the newly-announced partnership with TheDream.US and the goal to help prepare DREAMers for careers after college through one-on-one coaching and mentorship, high-impact training and upskilling, and personalized career planning designed to support DREAMers connect to meaningful, right-fit career paths.

Watch the full interview HERE.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please apply now!

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Avenica and TheDream.US Announce Strategic Partnership

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Avenica and TheDream.US Announce Strategic Partnership

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Avenica

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Avenica and TheDream.US announce strategic partnership to create career pathways for DREAMers through career readiness coaching, upskilling, and connections to career opportunities.

Avenica, a national leader in workforce solutions focused on bridging the gap between education and work, and TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for DREAMers, are proud to announce their strategic partnership to create career pathways for DREAMers through career readiness coaching, upskilling, and connections to career opportunities.

TheDream.US, whose supporters range from The Graham Family, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, The Coca-Cola Foundation, The PepsiCo Foundation, among many others, was founded by Graham Holdings Company CEO Donald E. Graham, his wife, journalist Amanda Bennett, Democratic activist and philanthropist Henry R. Muñoz III, and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. TheDream.US is the first multimillion-dollar National Scholarship Fund created to help immigrant students who came to this country as children achieve the American Dream. Scholarships from TheDream.US fund the completion of a college education.

We are announcing this partnership on the heels of the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived to the US as children from deportation and enables them to legally work. The goal of this partnership is to help TheDream.US Scholars connect to meaningful careers and contribute to the economic prosperity of our country.

“As U.S. businesses begin to rebuild their workforces post the pandemic, they are seeking diverse and often overlooked talent. DREAMers have the qualities employers seek — they’re entrepreneurial, determined to succeed, often bilingual, and eager to contribute to strengthening our companies and enriching our communities. All DREAMers need is the opportunity – and our partnership with Avenica will provide this,” says Candy Marshall, President of TheDream.US.

This partnership will provide TheDream.US’ college seniors and recent graduates access to a robust offering through the Avenica’s Pathways program which will include individualized career prep, high-impact training opportunities, and career discovery assessment designed to identify right-fit career paths.

“We’re not only proud to stand in support of DACA and the hundreds of thousands of people it protects, we’re proud to partner with TheDream.US to provide career resources and support to this overlooked and growing talent pool of college educated DREAMers who are eager to contribute to a country that is their home,” responded Scott Dettman, CEO, Avenica.

About TheDream.US

TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth, having provided more than 5,000 college scholarships to DREAMers at more than 70 partner colleges in 16 states and Washington, DC. We believe that all young Americans, regardless of where they were born, should have the opportunity to get a college education and pursue a meaningful career that contributes to our country’s prosperity. Read TheDream.US response to the recent Supreme Court ruling on DACA here.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please apply now!

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