How Can We Build Community Connections and Workforce Development?

April 02, 2014

On Thursday March 20, 2014 the Center for the Study of Sport in Society hosted a panel discussion on “Community Connections and Workforce Development”. The panel members were Dr. Richard D. O’Bryant from the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute at Northeastern, Anne Greenbaum the Director of Institutional Partnerships at Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center, and Jeannine Laing Executive Director of Franklin Park Tennis Association. The panelists were each able to offer a unique perspective on the topic given their diverse backgrounds and work experiences.

The panelists discussed the importance of building a workforce within community-based organizations that reflects the population they serve. For sports-based youth development organizations, one of the first steps in doing so is engaging the community in the sport or activity they offer and then providing additional experiences, such as teaching or volunteering within the organization. Jeannine touched on their strategy of involving parents and how that has helped to expand their volunteer participation; in turn they have been able to use volunteers for many different roles, some which are not specifically sports based. By expanding participation in the organization, it becomes easier to expand recruiting.

According to the panelists, another way to recruit a diverse workforce is to be honest about the population you want to recruit. When recruiting make sure you really highlight the skills or experience you want. For example, if you want an employee that is bilingual, list this as a necessary skill towards the top of the job description. It can also be useful to think about what matters the most to your organization in hiring- experience or education. And if your organization has employees that reflect what you are looking for in new candidates, they should be essential recruiters. Establishing long term connections with the community is important in continuing to recruit a workforce in the future that reflects the community served. Maintaining personal relationships is the first step towards creating these long term connections.

Recruiting community members into working with community organizations is also beneficial because often their passion and energy matches the work that the organization is doing. Working collaboratively with other organizations doing similar work can be helpful in engaging additional community members because it expands networks for the organizations as well as allows them to do reciprocal work. Finally, the panel members discussed the inherent value of having a diverse workforce. Anne Greenbaum stated that “The kids in this city are diverse . . . they deserve to be led, taught, mentored by people that are different from them, the same from them, to be able to see people from across races and genders operating as equals and sharing and disagreeing in constructive ways.”

If you missed the opportunity to attend this panel live, its posted on our website here. Be sure to come to our next panel, “Children First: Helping Staff Identify and Address Safety Issues” on May 22nd from 12:00-1:30pm! For more information, and to register, click here.