New AFW Board Member: Kacy Chiong
Essay by Kacy Chiong

I am excited and honored to have this opportunity to join the board of directors of America’s Future Workforce. When Nate first approached me about joining the board and told me what America’s Future Workforce was all about, it did not take me long to decide I want to be a part of this non-profit organization and contribute to the organization’s mission and vision. What ultimately helped me make this decision was based on the type of work AFW does and the organization’s goal to provide personal and professional developmental opportunities to an underserved population through its various programming initiatives. These programs will help young people and those struggling to find opportunities to enter the workforce obtain employment with a chance to jumpstart their career. By joining the AFW board, I hope to contribute where I can to spread more awareness of the importance of AFW’s programs to the local community and help find new ways to continue to support these programs to give AFW fellows the opportunity to achieve their goals.

In my experience, finding opportunities to develop skills sets and gain professional experience as a young person fresh out of college, while being able to afford the cost of living in an expensive area, such as the D.C. metropolitan area, is not the easiest to find. While the demand for professional experience and jobs are there, meeting specific job requirements of a position has been challenging for all types of job seekers. Looking at the job market today, companies are looking for specific skill sets and competencies for their talent pool, yet they are struggling to find qualified candidates to meet their basic standard requirements and organization’s needs. This is due to the high demand for skilled workers with a strong education background and years of experience in specialized fields that can hit the ground running. However, the investment in developing the talent is not usually high in priority for many businesses. Additionally, the basic qualifications set by companies can easily be a barrier and close the door to job opportunities for many who have the ability to work and have the potential to succeed. AFW’s Pathways program opens the door to opportunities and resources for youths to overcome many of the challenges they face on a daily basis to enter the workforce, and be able to work towards sustainable employment that can potentially lead to a strong career path. By giving these young people the tools and resources to succeed; they will increase their chances to break through the socioeconomic barriers they face and enter a tough labor market. Being able to help secure continuous funding for such a program can have such a tremendous impact for AFW fellows and the local community.

As an individual who has personally experienced the struggles of entering a tough labor market upon graduating college with a B.A., I wish that I can say I had something such as AFW’s Education to Employment program to help get me connected to resources that can help me overcome barriers and land a job within my desired industry more efficiently. The whole process of find a job with limited resources is a full-time job in itself and the constant pressure to succeed without knowing how to get there could be stressful and tantalizing for many. Similar to many of my colleagues seeking employment to help jumpstart a career in an economic recession years ago, I understand the struggle of having no choice but to take on random jobs that were nowhere near relevant to my hard earned degree and skill sets, but ultimately was a means to make ends meet. At some point, becoming jobless again and landing back at square one did not help, and returning to school to complete a master’s degree in Human Resource Management seemed to be the best shot I had to gain more knowledge in a specific field and meet one more of the basic requirements needed to land a job in the competitive HR field.

A few years later, I am now an HR professional working in Talent Management at a well-known international retail company entering the U.S. retail market. My diverse past and present professional experience has given me exposure to talent development and talent management at a global scale, and I hope to be able to contribute my HR knowledge and experience to help AFW further develop and strengthen the existing Pathways, E2E, and Worldwide Workers programs as well as helping create new initiatives to engage the community. Having the experience of overcoming my own personal challenges entering the labor market years ago, to having the experience to engage with and assist with the development training programs for a globally diverse workforce at an international company, I am excited to work with the AFW team and dedicate time to give back to the community based on the societal needs. It is refreshing to be a part of an organization that is so passionate to truly helping young people and new professionals break down barriers to become “America’s future workforce” and be able to give back to their own local community here in the D.C. metropolitan area.

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