TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, New York, November 13
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
For companies like the Huntington-based eGifter, combating Long Island’s “brain drain” has become a problem, said Philip Rugile, human capital strategist for the company.
How can companies combat this brain drain and keep the talent on Long Island – and more specifically in Huntington?
Give people a reason not to leave.
“If you find a student who is a good worker and they’re with you working as an intern every summer then, by the time they graduate, if they love you and you love them it’s a seamless transition into employment,” Rugile said.
A gifting company with a social and mobile twist, eGifter stresses the need for brains – especially within the “tech arena.” Instead of outsourcing through countries like India, Rugile said, hiring interns to fill the company’s needs – and, in turn, create ties with potential full-time employees – has become incredibly valuable. So far, through an internship program set up by Accelerate Long Island, eGifter has found more than one intern capable of contributing to the company’s mission. Currently, Rugile said, eGifter is hosting two interns – Jessie Zhang a graduate of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University, and Julie Jihye Yang a master’s graduate from Stony Brook University – that the company hopes will soon be full-time employees.
“If we’re lucky one or both of them will like it here and we’ll consider employing them,” Rugile said.
But it’s not just eGifter that’s making the push for young talent. The Huntington Station-based professional development company Teq has also been connecting with Long Island students and recent graduates.
“We’ve been leading this push the entire year, but we’ve focused over the last couple of months and started aggressively going after 17 colleges… within a 50-mile square radius of Huntington,” Chris Hickey, president of Teq, said. “We’re trying really hard to not be short term, we’re constantly building relationships with students… We want passionate, eager people right out of college who we can develop in a way that we believe will make them ideal to have in the workforce – [as] opposed to someone who is just happy to have a job and is not being trained by the employer.”
Through events like “The Bright Career Path: A Career Services Networking Event” – which Teq hosted in its showroom on Oct. 30, inviting more than 17 colleges – the company has been able get in on the ground floor with people in, or just out of, college. As Hickey said, these people are eager and less likely to establish negative workplace habits. Since January, Hickey said, Teq has made 69 new hires and 60-65 percent of them are recent college graduates.
“Teq is looking to change the way the workforce looks at employment… We want to build a culture where people are constantly learning,” Hickey said. “Managers are giving feedback to employees and rewarding them with economic-based incentives so that they’re not stuck in a world without a career path… That’s what colleges like to see.”
Damian Scarfo, CEO of Teq, called this one of the most important pieces of Teq – a “complete program” that offers plenty of areas for employees to learn and improve.
However, at Teq – and other Huntington businesses – it’s not just about the college students and graduates; school districts, like South Huntington, are also finding ways to get their students involved with businesses around town.
Jared Bloom, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum, said it’s important for students to know about the opportunities that are available to them with companies “right next door.” With grant money, the presence of Rob Callahan – the college and career ready coach at Walt Whitman High School – and increased ties with Huntington companies, Bloom said, the district has had success getting its students an “in” earlier and earlier.
“Exposure. That’s the best way to say it. Exposing students to opportunities, you see light bulbs being set off that they may not have even know existed,” he said.
Recently, 15 students of South Huntington made their way to North Shore LIJ where they watched a surgery thanks to Callahan. Of the 15, 14 of them are now interested in pursuing a career in the medical field, Bloom said. Another student is currently working with Launchpad Huntington – a tech incubator run by eGifter – for 10 hours every week.
“If we’re not preparing these students then why would they stay on Long Island? They’re not going to have the skill-sets,” Bloom said. “At South Huntington, we’re trying to figure out what those skill-sets are and also build opportunities to expand them outside of the school day on a pathway to a really fantastic career opportunity.”
Currently, South Huntington is awaiting word on whether it will be awarded a New York State P-Tech grant, which would allow students to graduate high school with an associate’s degree alongside the mentoring of a business sponsor such as Launchpad Huntington.
“We feel very lucky that we have these grants and relationships with Huntington businesses,” Bloom said. “For me, it’s just an amazing opportunity to be able to work with these businesses… and I look forward to continuing that.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, November 13, 2014; A12)