Virtual approach to workforce development connects talent with employers

by Denise M. Guzzetta, Vice President of Talent and Workforce Development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation
Published 05/20/2020

It is not as easy to walk in for a job interview, start an internship or shadowing – but in some ways, the latest way Sioux Falls is connecting students with employers is just as personal.

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation has stepped up big in the last couple months, hosting and coordinating a series of virtual talent talks that are bringing college students together with employers who will have jobs for them.

“We immediately shifted into a new mode of delivering some of our most key programming,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development.

“Especially with graduation approaching and summer internship opportunities changing, we felt it was important to connect as many area students as possible with organizations we know will have a need for their skills going forward.”

The virtual series of events kicked off with a virtual version of the Development Foundation’s workforce recruitment council meeting, focused on how to keep employees motivated and engaged despite social distances.

“We were able to immediately put best practices in front of human resource leaders and executives across our business community at a time when they were needed,” Guzzetta said. “With help from Raven Industries and the Helpline Center, our recruitment council members left with information and resources they could put to work in real time.”

Then came a series of virtual talent talks, beginning with a session between Morningside College nursing students and representatives from Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan Society.

“The versatility of talent programming options between in-person to virtual events with the Sioux Falls Development Foundation enables us to efficiently recruit early career talent, such as nurses, who are essential to our organization,” said Jon Runyan, a Sanford Health sourcing specialist who helps with nursing opportunities.

After leaders at Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society shared more about their organizations and the paths students could take to nursing careers there, students could ask questions live.

“We love collaborating and building new connections,” said Alex Watters, career development specialist at Morningside. “Our students and grads were able to connect virtually with Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society about jobs, internships and more.”

Another virtual talent talk paired students at Augustana University considering healthcare careers with representatives from Avera Health who shared the range of opportunities the organization offers.

“There is a large benefit as an undergrad to getting in front of employers and hearing their expectations and tips,” said Anna Boyens, a junior majoring in biology and Spanish.

“As a pre-med undergraduate student, I am searching for ways to gain access to the healthcare world to broaden my experiences and solidify my vocation. With so much uncertainty right now, having the opportunity to hear from Avera employers about what the future holds for undergraduate positions was extremely valuable and reassuring to me.”

The format of the presentation allowed her to gain insight from multiple angles and areas of the organization, she said.

“I left the Zoom meeting feeling motivated to do everything in my power to find a position in the healthcare field even if it wasn't exactly what I had planned,” Boyens said. “COVID-19 has changed many plans, but by being flexible and being presented with many options, I know that it will not halt my career journey.” 

For Augustana University, the virtual offerings build on a long relationship with the Development Foundation, said Billie Streufert, assistant vice provost, student success and engagement.

“The Foundation routinely creates high-quality workforce events that seamlessly connect employers, applicants, and educational institutions. These connections fuel innovation, workforce development, and career readiness that transform both the Sioux Falls community and the lives of students,” she said. “Partnerships of this nature are especially valuable during times of economic uncertainty, such as the current pandemic. It signals that, despite COVID-19, there are employers that need employees.”

The virtual programming is an effective and efficient way to pair talent and opportunity, she added.

“The virtual event ensured the safety of everyone involved and eliminated geographical barriers so Augustana students could attend wherever they were located. This was especially beneficial given our move to an online learning environment. We look forward to partnering again in the future.”

The Development Foundation also helped address the area’s need to keep highly skilled computer science graduates in Sioux Falls through a talent talk for students at Dakota State University.

They heard from CentralSquare Technologies, which provides software to the public sector, specifically municipal governments, and public safety entities.

“We know the emerging generation of new graduates wants careers where they use their skills to help society,” Guzzetta said. “So, this was a way to introduce a terrific company culture with roles that allow them to do just that.”

DSU’s students showed a strong level of interest, with even incoming freshmen attending the event. Graduating senior Jordan Oberg will have a newly earned bachelor’s degree in cyber operations and is planning to start his master’s in computer science in the fall.

“I thought the meeting went well,” he said. “The structure was easy to follow along, and I gathered the information I was looking for. Being a student who is about to graduate, it is good to see all of the options out there.”While the event originally was scheduled as a face-to-face meeting, the change to a virtual event still allowed some great communication between an employer and potential workers, said Janelle Nielsen, DSU’s coordinator of employer relations and events.

“I would like to say, ‘thank you’ to Denise Guzzetta and her team at the Sioux Falls Development Foundation for organizing the talent tour for our DSU students,” she said. “It was very interesting and informative to hear about what this software provider does for the public sector.  CentralSquare Technologies is an employer that will be a great fit for our students seeking internships and graduates pursuing full-time employment. We look forward to having this business become one that will actively recruit our DSU students.”

As part of its ongoing WIN content, the Development Foundation also profiled three women who have grown their careers from nursing into health care technology at homegrown startup Experity. To see their story and view a video of their experience, click here.

“Stories like this illustrate exactly what we’re trying to communicate to students,” Guzzetta said. “You can pursue a career in a field like nursing, and when you decide you want to use your skills in a different evolving field, we have the tech companies here ready and waiting for you with a fulfilling career path.”

The Development Foundation is continuing to offer virtual programming this month and going forward.

“We felt this immediate focus on healthcare and public service careers came at exactly the right time,” Guzzetta said. “But going forward, we will be making connections for students in other industries, including transportation, construction and education. Students feel very comfortable learning in virtual environments, so this is an effective way to meet them where they’re at even when we are able to transition back into more in-person events.”

If your organization would like to participate in a virtual talent talk, contact Denise Guzzetta at 605-339-0103

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