The Nimble World of a Non-profit Agency and its Partners

By Nancy Olson

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus stated, “The only constant is change.” In today’s non-profit sector nothing rings more true. Today’s uncertain and unpredictable labor market patterns point to the need for such agencies to seek creative ways to provide employment services when facing limited budgets. One such non-profit agency that is moving forward in a creative fashion despite a precarious economy is HIRED.



Founded in 1968 in Minneapolis, HIRED is a non-profit provider of employment services and job skills training to more than 10,000 individuals per year. These services are designed to assist laid off workers, refugees, youth, and low-income adults. Despite obstacles such as limited federal and state funding, HIRED has found ways to provide special training programs that foster a win-win opportunity for both job seeker and employer at no cost to the participant. HIRED’s mission is a testimony to that creativity; “To provide personalized and innovative work solutions.”


Building partnerships has always been a strength for HIRED. Local Twin Cities community and technical colleges partner with HIRED to offer program participants the current skills needed to obtain jobs in various manufacturing firms. Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park, MN partners with HIRED in what is called The M-Powered Program. These fast-track training programs teach individuals the skills needed to begin careers in high-tech-high-demand manufacturing careers. At the end of the training, the participant interviews and is hired by an M-Powered company partner and completes a paid on-the-job training experience.


This winning partnership results in job seekers entering careers in computer controlled micro-machining, precision metal stamping, research and development processes, and quality assurance. Last January I was able to attend the graduation of one of my clients who is participating in the M-Powered program. Present at this graduation were dignitaries from the technical college, employers, students, faculty, and HIRED managers. All attention was centered on beaming students proudly walking forward to accept their achievement certificates.


Using Sector Initiatives

Another sign of a nimble non-profit organization is the ability to anticipate industry needs while researching potential funding streams that provide training monies to help educate today’s laid off workers. One such example is a sector initiative training that involves a partnership between HIRED and the Blue Green Alliance. Using curriculum developed by Purdue University coupled with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor, HIRED employment counselors enrolled eligible dislocated worker participants in a Green Specialist Series 6 Training. The workshop teaches experienced manufacturing participants green principles that translate to ways companies can identify energy and cost saving measures. The workshop covers topics such as waste reduction, energy management, green chemistry, and water conversation. Upon completion the participants can earn a Society of Manufacturing Engineers Green Manufacturing Specialist Certificate with potential to secure additional funding to further their education that is focused in manufacturing. Other sector initiative trainings that counselors promote include Customer Service, BioTechnology, and Health Careers.


Utilizing Outside Consultants

When economic times get tough people often become resourceful by becoming entrepreneurs. These business owners and consultants can assist your clients and often will work with non-profit agencies to develop a specialized series of workshops tailored to particular industries or job search trends. The idea of customized training makes sense for several reasons:

  • participants get focused attention,

  • new ideas and curriculum emerges, and

  • using industry subject matter experts to teach workshops lends to a non-profit agency’s credibility.

Recently a local non-profit used consultants to facilitate a Career Advantage Series of workshops that taught participants job readiness techniques that integrated assessment, marketing, and social media. The sequential format of this series had a powerful impact that allowed the job seekers to use the tools of technology along with their individual brand identification to better articulate their strengths while networking.


The Future of the Non-Profit

I believe that non-profits can continue to offer solutions that meet employer needs by being creative, responsive, and collaborative. Non-profit agencies such as HIRED discover opportunities to forge partnerships with companies, colleges, and funders that produce positive results for their participants and communities where they live. Today’s non-profit career counselor can play an integral role in helping identify the clients’ career and training options. We can and need to continue to be partners and supporters during these fragile periods of transition. What a value in a time when change is the constant!




Nancy OlsonNancy Olson, MA, is a senior employment counselor at HIRED, a non-profit in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She earned her Master of Arts in Counseling and Psychological Services at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Her areas of interest include job burn-out and adults in employment transition. She can be reached at nancy.olson@hired.org.

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