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Encore!Hartford Offers Path From Corporate World To Nonprofit Sector


January 20, 2010

Nonprofit organizations seeking qualified managers will soon have a new source of talent through a program developed by the University of Connecticut together with Leadership Greater Hartford.

The result is Encore!Hartford, a three-month program designed to help seasoned middle-level managers make a successful transition to jobs in social or human services or the arts.

"They've paid their dues to the corporate world and want to do something more socially meaningful," said Ron Cretaro, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits.

"To have a formal program like this is just a wonderful opportunity."

Encore hopes to tap into a national surge of interest by baby boomers in finding work that is not tied to a profit-and-loss statement.

"Many people are looking for encore careers," said Doe Hentschel, vice president of Leadership Greater Hartford.

A transition from corporation to social service agency often stalls because the cultures of both workplaces differ and neither party knows how to match the skills of the corporate worker with the needs of the agency.

The Encore program for unemployed professionals, similar to others being developed around the country, is designed as a bridge between the two spheres by helping workers identify and transfer the skills they need in a nonprofit environment, and learn about a work culture often very different from the one they are familiar with.

"If they are serious about nonprofits, this provides them with an immersion," said David Garvey, director of UConn's Nonprofit Leadership Program, the sponsor of Encore.

Garvey, who worked for two years with Leadership Greater Hartford to develop the project, said 20 Encore fellows will be chosen. Federal stimulus funds will subsidize the program for 10 people already participating in the state labor department's employment training programs, and the university will choose 10 additional candidates who will each pay $2,250 for the competitive program. Enrollment ends Feb. 12, and the program runs from March 2 to June 17.

"The target is people over 40 who have substantial work experience to translate and wish to give something back," said Pam Nabors of Workforce Partners, a public-private consortium that focuses on job development. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree and approximately 15 years' professional experience, though these requirements may be waived in special cases.

Garvey said labor statistics show that 10 percent of the state's labor force is employed by nonprofit organizations, many of whose employees are nearing retirement. At the same time, many workers in the for-profit field are searching for work with a different emphasis.

Connecticut, with the seventh-oldest work force in the country, will soon see widespread retirement in all branches of the work force, including nonprofits, many of whom have not planned for the future.

"There's not a lot of succession planning for people in higher level jobs," Nabors said. "People in higher-level positions are really sought after."

For eight weeks, fellows in the program will take workshops from managers who have made the transition from for-profit to nonprofit, and from other nonprofit executives and will learn how their corporate skills can dovetail with the demands of a nonprofit organization.

Classes will be held initially at the University of Connecticut's Greater Hartford campus and rotate among different nonprofit workplaces. Fellows will also have the opportunity to spend two days shadowing nonprofit professionals who work in an area that interests them.

For the last eight weeks of the program, fellows will work on a specific project in their area of interest and develop a plan the agency can implement. At graduation, there will be a job fair where fellows will show how they have translated their skills to the nonprofit field, and agencies can exchange job information.

Though Garvey said no hiring commitments have been made by the nonprofits participating in the program, he is hoping that job offers will be made. With 20 percent of the Connecticut workforce 55 or older, "we know there are nonprofits that are looking to hire in the future," he said.

In any case, fellows will have made contacts that can help them in the future as openings arise, said Hentschel. "Most nonprofits don't advertise [job openings] publicly," she said. "It's a lot of networking. One of the challenges for people in the corporate sector is they never hear about the jobs."

The difficulties in making the transition from the corporate to the nonprofit world shouldn't be overlooked, said Maureen Price-Boreland, executive director of Community Partners in Action, an agency that provides services to criminal offenders both in and out of prison.

"I'm suspicious of it being a natural fit," she said. Working in a corporation can make executives "so profit-margin-focused they can lose sight of the human component that should be part of the dialogue."

For more information about the program, visit www.leadershipgh.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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