Following a pandemic year, we started the new year strong. Now that we’re halfway through, we have made fantastic progress to our Talent Partnership strategy. The work we’re doing can be classified into six categories: Military Matters, The Circuit, Intern WF, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Talent Pipeline Management, and Talent Recruitment & Retention.
Let’s talk about them!
The goal of our Military Matters program is to build stronger connections between the business community and Sheppard Air Force Base, including active-duty personnel, veterans, and military spouses. We have this focus for a few reasons. Military support is outlined in our Talent Partnership catalyst, as Sheppard Air Force Base is our largest employer and economic contributor in Wichita Falls. But military-affiliated talent is also a highly adaptable, resilient, and under-utilized talent pipeline. By supporting our local military affiliates, we can continue to promote the longevity and economic health of our community.
Over the last few years, we have integrated military spouses into our Wichita Falls community by hosting community tours of unique attractions and assets. When the pandemic hit in 2020, we needed to adjust our model from in-person tours to virtual workshops. From there, we launched Hidden Gems in February with the goal to continue the momentum of our support for bridging the gap and improving quality of life for local military families. We’ll continue this virtual programming through the remainder of the year to accommodate families that still can benefit from that option while resuming our in-person tours later this year.
We’ve also found a lot of success in supporting military spouse employment advocacy through the Hiring Our Heroes program, Military Spouse Professional Network. Since our launch of the Sheppard network in October 2019, we’ve seen consistent progress for milspouses in our community through employment, volunteerism and professional development. The first half of 2021 has been critical as military spouse unemployment, which is already higher than the national average, rose quickly to 38%. We share employment and volunteer opportunities on a daily and weekly basis to this group, focus on workplace readiness and provide professional development opportunities on a monthly basis and continually communicate with employers the benefit of hiring military affiliates. As a result, we’ve seen an increase in employers specifically wanting to connect with our spouses, as well as adapting their employment model to better suit the flexible careers they critically need. We look forward to continuing this program and conversation.
Partnering with the former Young Professionals of Wichita Falls, we launched our new emerging leaders program, The Circuit in September 2020 with a focus on three pillars: community involvement, professional development and mentorship. Our goal is to invest in our local leaders and provide them with opportunities to develop the skills they desire to excel in our community.
Over the last six months, we’ve recruited and onboarded over 60 members, matched each of them with industry-leading mentors and talked about key aspects of career and personal advancement through our monthly programs. We also onboarded our first ever Circuit Board in March and began in-person programming in May. We’re even currently planning our one year anniversary celebration. Lots of great things are on the horizon!
“Let’s just say she showed up today. She jumped right in…She met with the team and I after and we were all in agreement that she started today!…Yep…she was that good…Great Connection Taylor. She’ll be with us for sure till August but we may just keep her here her senior year…” Dusty Sternadel, NSpire
Internship programs are another unique avenue to build your pipeline while also helping to retain our quality talent by building mutually beneficial connections to our community.
We spent the latter half of last year developing our internship campaign to promote students and employers alike to consider the benefits of an internship program. After writing blogs and emails, sharing video testimonials, and distributing our employer resource, the internship guide, we’re continuing to generate buzz in our community and promote the necessity and value of internships in Wichita Falls.
More to come in the future!
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
For the last few years, our organization has been connecting with community stakeholders regarding the creation of a dedicated DEI program. Originally starting with the Diversity Business Council in 2019, our plan was on minority-owned business support through advocacy, education and publicity. However, the events of social unrest and inequities exacerbated by the pandemic throughout 2020 made it clear that our scope of our work should extend beyond just businesses and instead benefit all community members.
Wanting to foster the conversation around the importance of DEI in the community and workforce, we started 2021 with a two-day virtual workshop by Dr. Nika White, Demystifying Diversity: Building a Foundation for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Using this program as a springboard, we are now facilitating a steering committee with the goal of kick-starting a community-wide initiative around equity and inclusivity for all community members. With this steering committee, we are communicating with other communities about their DEI programs and process to determine our path moving forward for Wichita Falls.`
Talent Pipeline Management
In Spring 2020, we applied for and were accepted to the first-ever Texas-Only cohort for Talent Pipeline Management Academy. TPM Academy is a demand-driven strategy to create real career pathways for students and workers with talent pipelines aligned to dynamic business needs.
This program covers six strategies over 12-18 months to support pipeline development, which are:
- Organizing Employer Collaboratives
- Engaging in Demand Planning
- Communicating Competency & Credential Requirements
- Analyzing Talent Flows
- Building Talent Support Chains
- Continuous Improvement
We began this year by launching our first collaboration with five local manufacturers. We’ve recently completed our needs assessment process and are working through strategies two and three. We’re excited to bring this program through completion and improve talent pipelines for our local employers.
Talent Recruitment & Retention
The idea for the relocation guide was born from the COVID-19 pandemic when I saw fellow military spouses moving to our community without access to normal community resources and information. From there, we decided that a relocation guide would a necessary and valuable asset for Wichita Falls and went forward with its creation. The added benefit to this guide is that employers can use it as they are recruiting quality, experienced employees to fill their right-now needs. It’s now been officially launched and is everything we wanted in our first-ever guide! We’re always looking for feedback or insight on what may be missing, so get in touch if you have any thoughts.
HOT Jobs & Employment Toolkits
“Our agency utilizes the Wichita Falls Chamber jobs board as one of our primary contacts for filling employment positions. We have been very happy with the postings for our agency and candidates received through use of the board.” – Diane Morgan, Nortex Regional Planning Commission
“I’ve heard from other employers that they are getting better candidates through the Chamber than Indeed. I want better candidates, too!” – Jessica Traw, Work Services Corporation
Starting with our Chamber job board in 2019, we saw an opportunity to share openings to our military community contacts to further encourage military spouse employment. This quickly morphed into our weekly HOT Jobs distribution which has since expanded into a significant local footprint.
With an abundance of unique organizations and resources available in Wichita Falls, we decided to further support both employers and job-seekers alike by gathering easy-to-find information around employment. This led to the creation of valuable resources like job descriptions and resume templates and employment pathways documents.
Our goal is to simplify the employment process for everyone. We want it to be easy for qualified talent to find new opportunities and we want employers to find the staff they need to excel in their business.