UNLEASH editor Jon Kennard gets some time with Roy Baladi, founder of Jobs for Humanity, to discuss the beginnings, the vision, the aspirations and the impact of a project borne from an event that changed his life forever.
We start at the beginning…
Jon Kennard: This is a really exciting project of yours and I can’t wait to hear more about it. And it’s hopefully going to be part of a bigger picture of things that we do at UNLEASH, which is highlighting HR for good. So, give us the genesis of the idea, explain what it’s all about, and how it came into existence.
Roy Baladi: Jobs for Humanity is a global movement of job creation for people from underrepresented backgrounds, specifically refugees, single moms, ethnic minorities, returning citizens from incarceration, the blind, and the neurodivergent.
And as we are able to create job sites and training programs and onboarding programs for these communities, we’re looking to expand to more the LGBTQ, baby boomers, military veterans, and the elderly as well.
It started because I had always had a penchant towards inclusion. I built a boarding school after college. My parents built an orphanage when I was a kid. Even when I worked on Wall Street – I worked on building the first microfinance CLO (collateralized loan obligation) – I was always thinking, how do you give back? And in my last job at SmartRecruiters, I was volunteering in prisons, volunteering with Lighthouse for the Blind.
And it wasn’t until one day, there was an explosion that happened in Beirut, that rocked the city, and I happened to have been in it. And that nearly cost me my life. But at the same time going through it and looking at it the very next day, realizing that things, life, can go in an instant.
I just did it. I had been wanting to do this, but I never had the guts. I just decided to go to San Francisco – I packed my stuff, donated my belongings, and started Jobs for Humanity.
I called up friends, in each one of these communities where I had friends, I call them up and told them hey, I would like to create an unemployable employment platform; would you like to collaborate? And they said yes, the first thing we need to do is to put together these job sites, and then the training program for how do you onboard those job seekers? Who is a refugee? What is the difference between a refugee and asylum seeker? What are the challenges they face? How do you interview them? The accommodations they may need? How do you onboard them? How do you create a safe space? How do you offboard them while still being helpful, in case you don’t want to hire them?
So, putting that together in conjunction with the job site, and then calling employers and telling them hey, come in, and calling job seekers and saying hey, come in, and facilitating that conversational process, ultimately.
JK: It’s an inspiring story of how it got started. There’s nothing like a literal life changing experience to kickstart these incredible ideas. But when it started, what were your initial goals for the project – it was obviously a lot smaller than it is now – and as it’s grown, how have those goals changed for you?
RB: For me, I had the long term vision, and that vision is still just a straight shot, it’s a very specific moment. And this moment is going to be in 2030.
We aligned ourselves to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically goal number eight. So for those who don’t know what the UN SDGs are, they were created in 2015 by a UN assembly of most countries, where they agreed on 17 goals that would make the world a better place: Eradicating poverty, education, reducing inequalities, quality jobs for all – which is the one we’re going for – environmental goals, carbon footprint, and so on and so forth.
And they agreed that in 2030 they’ll get back together and and see the progress they’ve made on each. So we decided that we want to be the leading contributor or the largest contributor, a positive force for good for goal number eight, which is ‘quality jobs for all’. And then you’ve got many goals [beneath that]. You want to see the job site up, you want to see jobs in, candidates applying, the first person get hired. So those were our micro goals for each community.
And it’s actually been amazing to see the journey. Today we have 117,000 job seekers on the platform, we have had roughly 70,000 jobs published. And we have about 600 to 800 success stories.
We’ll be able to properly measure them, once we have the full technical integration with companies ATSs (applicant tracking systems), because this is when we get to know who gets hired. But in the meantime, we get to see a lot of that activity on our site, we get to hear that as we train recruiters, and prepare the job seekers so that they can learn inclusion training, but also practice it.
JK: It’s amazing that you’ve got this long term goal, and then these different milestones along the way. What impact has it had so far? You’ve mentioned a little bit about the scale of it, the number of job seekers, but data-wise, and anecdotally, what impact has it had in all these different communities that you’re working with?
RB: So far, we’re seeing somewhere between 600-800 people having gotten jobs. So it’s had an amazing impact. But at the same time, that’s less than 1000 people [that have] gotten hired out of 117,000 [ed’s note – this is now up to 130,000 since our conversation] people on the database. So in many cases, we’re connecting them with the employer and you don’t know if they got hired or not.
Usually, from my past experience, it’s 1% success: 10% get interviews and one person gets a job. However, we don’t know that until we have the proper integration, or the job seekers themselves come back and tell us, or the employees come back and tell us.
But so far, I feel like it’s honestly in its infancy. There’s so much that can be done…
The agenda is now live! Discover amazing speakers from the world of HR and business at UNLEASH America on 26-27 April 2023.
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