Photos by Hilary Ehlen
Screenshots via Golden Path Solutions
As the workforce shortage in North Dakota continues to become more evident, it is increasingly important for companies to align themselves with potential employees earlier in the process. One local company, Golden Path Solutions (GPS), is helping to bridge the gap by connecting employers with students who are still in high school.
GPS is using their new application called Compass to create profiles for students that highlight their “experiences” (experiences include classes they’ve taken, activities they’ve been involved with and hobbies they pursue in their free time). These experiences, along with a personality assessment, are used to give students insight into what skills they have and what careers they might be interested in. In addition, students can choose to make themselves searchable to employers (with parental consent if they are under 18) and potentially get matched with companies who are looking for their particular experiences and skills.
GPS’s application isn’t just working to help solve the workforce problems, it’s also solving a huge problem for students who are graduating from high school without much guidance towards a career path.
“All of my four kids have the same issue,” said Tschosik. “Everyone keeps asking them, ‘What are you going to do after high school?’ ‘What are you going to do after college?’ ‘What’s your major?’ And it’s such a big decision. We are building an app to help guide them to make better decisions,” said Tschosik.
“I was doing consulting work with a client, and they had a role where they struggled to find a person with the right fit. It was hard to even define the role very well,” said Mineer. “I remember thinking about that, and at the same time my daughter was thinking about what she was going to do after graduating from Fargo North. I had a moment where I thought, ‘let’s try to connect those two dots.'”
So far Mineer and his co-founder Loren Tschosik have connected those two dots while trying to solve a multifaceted career awareness problem.
“There’s this perfect storm of problems we’re trying to address in which everybody wins,” said Mineer. “Not a lot of students are doing career planning, they’re going into [post-secondary] school pretty blind, student debt is a big issue, labor markets are really tight, and our labor market is diversifying with careers that take certain skill sets that students might not even know about. We are trying to address all of this.”
A big part of addressing the problem of career awareness, according to Mineer and Tschosik, is the “experience” component. In order to figure out what experiences best align a student with a certain career, GPS works with employers to identify the skills, talents, and educational paths needed to be successful at jobs in their company. They also talk to employees that are currently in the field to identify some of the different experiences they had when they were younger. This information can be useful to employers, even if they don’t want to sponsor students, but want to make their own job descriptions more insightful, more targeted.
For employers that are looking to do sponsorships, after students and employers are connected through a Match.com like process, the employer can work with the student to create a work agreement where the employer can influence where the student goes for post-secondary education, specify the amount of tuition reimbursement they want to offer, and set guidelines for things like internships in exchange for guaranteed employment.
“One thing we believe is an advantage with our approach is our ability to look at the whole student,” Mineer said. “We don’t just look at what they do in school. we also look at what they do in their free time.”
Mineer and the employers he works with believe that what the students do in their free time is key because it shows where their true passion lies.
“A student who is really passionate about a particular thing, let’s say they’re really passionate about writing code, they might invest more of their time in that activity than they might invest in school,” said Mineer. “They might be bored with school because it’s not really interesting to them, but that one thing is. We’re trying to get to that one thing. Our hypothesis is that if a student can get paid to do that thing that they do in their free time as part of their job, they’re going to be super engaged and productive.”
So far, GPS is working with over 12 K12 and higher-ed schools six companies (Sanford Health, Doosan Bobcat, Korber, American Crystal Sugar, General Equipment, and the Fargo Jet Center). Many have offered to “sponsor” select students that they match with. Sanford is currently offering 15 sponsorships.
“Sanford Health is always looking for innovative opportunities to connect with candidates. Golden Path’s concept and the assessment tools they are developing have the potential to achieve a stronger alignment between a future candidate’s strengths and interests and the organization’s needs earlier in the individual’s career,” said Jocelyn Wessels, Sanford’s Executive Director of Human Resources.
Many of the current sponsorship opportunities are aligned to two- year degrees, but the model also works with four-year degrees and apprenticeships, and will be extended to students already in a higher-ed program in addition to high school.
Recently, Tyler Knott, a senior at West Fargo Sheyenne high school accepted a sponsorship through GPS, signing an agreement with Korber to go to school at North Dakota State College Science and become a machinist with upon graduation, something he has developed a passion for while taking a machining class in school.
“I’ve always liked to take things apart and figure out how they work,” said Knott. “Probably since the first grade I’ve been doing that sort of thing.”
In order to connect with students, GPS has worked directly with leadership in the school system. One of their biggest champions so far has been Dr. Denis Jonas, the Cass County Career and Tech Ed (CTE) Director. Jonas has served as a conduit for Mineer and Tschosik to communicate with staff in many of the Cass County schools, career and technical education programs and counselors.
“My vision would be to use the Compass tool to help students better understand their interests, skills, and potential career passion, which will, in turn, connect them with business profiles in the database and jobs in our community,” said Jonas. “Currently, this process is completed manually through teachers, counselors, parents, etc, which is a tremendous burden for school staff. Our current process also creates inequities for those students who may have fewer connections and less resources. I believe the Compass app would allow us to use technology to scale the process for the number of students in our high schools, increase efficiencies, and better align students with appropriate business placements.”
That increase in efficiency should allow a greater number of students exposure to not only better opportunities, but opportunities that they might not have even known existed. All while using data to connect students and employers.
Though Golden Path Solution’s interface focuses on data to make connections between students and employers and is an important part of the work that they do, it is not required. Not every student is going to get or even want a sponsorship. If that’s the case, the Compass application will still allow each student to explore career paths through the profile that they create. At the same time, employers can use GPS to learn more about what they should be looking for in an employee by using the data piece or by working with Mineer and Tschosik to identify their needs for an employee.
Working With Golden Path Solutions
We sat down with Jessica Petrick, Human Resources Manager for Korber Medipak, one of Golden Path Solutions’ first clients.
- What made you want to work with Golden Path?
- We knew that we had to look at recruiting for our positions differently, especially our hard-to-fill machinist role, and look more long term. We believe that Golden Path’s approach to matching students and employers is a win-win opportunity that will have a high success rate. Patrick and Loren have a great vision for helping North Dakota’s workforce issue and their energy is contagious.
- How did things turn out for your company?
- We are extremely excited to say that we are in the last stages of finalizing an agreement between Korber and a candidate. The candidate will enroll in the Precision Machining program at NDSCS and will work for Korber upon graduation as a machinist. The candidate seems to be a perfect fit for machining and I attribute this directly to the work Golden Path Solutions has provided.
- What was the profiling process like?
- The profiling process was simple. It just took a little organization of schedules and communication on what we were doing. Employees were happy to help. The results highlighted characteristics across multiple employees that wasn’t transparent initially. The end result was accurate and added areas of focus for future interviews with candidates.