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White House recognizes Talent ABQ

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talentabqThe city sponsored initiative Talent ABQ — that encourages skills-based hiring by local businesses — is gaining national recognition.

The White House posted a short video on Tuesday on its “Ready to Work” website of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry discussing the benefits and achievements of the program, which launched last year with city funding. The federal website highlights successful strategies to help workers gain skills needed for good-paying jobs as part of a national-level initiative to improve job-training programs.

Berry had discussed Talent ABQ with the White House last spring.

“The video was made in response to a direct request from Vice President Joe Biden’s office,” said Albuquerque Economic Development Director Gary Oppedahl. “We just made it last week.”

White House recognition was one of the achievements discussed Wednesday morning at the Albuquerque Economic Forum, where program directors reviewed Talent ABQ’s accomplishments over the past year and goals for the future.

The program helps job seekers assess their individual skills, improve their abilities through online training, and then match them with job opportunities.

The aim is to unite job seekers with potential employers based on skills rather than educational degrees, said Jamai Blivin, CEO of the Santa Fe-based nonprofit Innovate+Educate, which runs the program in partnership with the city, the state Department of Workforce Solutions and CNM.

Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the city and matching funds from the Kellogg Foundation, the program now has 29 “skills labs” around Albuquerque where job seekers can get free talent assessments and online training.

“About 5,000 individual skill assessments have been done to date, with more than 300 employers participating in the program,” Blivin said.

Hundreds have been hired for public and private sector jobs since last year based on the assessments and job-matching services, Blivin said. Brewer Oil, for example, has hired 72 people since January for its statewide chain of gas stations and convenience stores, 90 percent of them based on skill assessments.

Innovate+Educate is now working to expand the program to more states. It will launch in September in parts of Ohio, thanks to a $1 million grant from some national foundations, Blivin said.

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