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New 'Talent Solutions Connector' Tool Seeks To Help Cook County Businesses Find Potential New Employees

CHICAGO (CBS) -- They've blitzed Internet job boards, and offered much higher wages to no avail. Many employers remain desperate to fill gaping holes in their staffing.

We're Working For Chicago, and always looking for new ideas to help connect the dots of job to worker. Morning Insider Lauren Victory shares more about a tool coming soon called the "Talent Solutions Connector."

From recruiting during a Halloween event to tempting prospects with candy, a.k.a. big cash bonuses, we've seen employers try almost anything to scare up workers.

"We've been advertising as many different places as we can," Patrice Brazil told CBS 2 in August.  At that point, she was trying her luck at a City-led virtual job fair called "Hire Chicago 2021," looking to fill 100 positions at her company called Worldwide Flight Services.

"It helped a great deal," Brazil told us this week, referring to the initiative. Hire Chicago 2021 assisted her with filling 12 positions, with 9 more slots pending.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership that spearheaded Hire Chicago 2021 says they'll follow-up with the more than 270 companies that participated in the project in the next month or so to get a grasp on its success. It drew nearly 3,000 job seekers.

Meantime, Brazil's hunt for employees continues and something called the "Talent Solutions Connector" might help.

"I wouldn't say it's revolutionary. It just fills a need," said Dani Petrie, executive director of the Origami Works Foundation that is privately funding the project.

The "Talent Solutions Connector" is a new online directory for Cook County companies who haven't had success finding employees through job fairs or online postings. The tool offers the ability to find diverse or "alternative" candidates that an employer may not have previously considered.

"Maybe they've had checkered work histories or a substance abuse history or some justice involvement in the past," said Petrie.

Those would-be workers are vetted and supported by providers that partner with and pop up on the "Talent Solutions Connector" search engine.

One of the available services is called "Apprenticeship Navigator." A team from that organization is working with Anna Hebig from Advocate Aurora Health to create a new apprenticeship program to recruit hospital cooks.

"It's an 'Earn While You Learn' program," said Helbig, who is the hospital's workforce development manager.

Culinary positions the hospital had been hard to fill in the past. "It's an innovative way to prepare these individuals to become chefs and cooks within our organization which really helps, of course, benefit our patients."

The "Talent Solutions Connector" is available in beta form right now, with its official launch scheduled for November 2.

Origami Works Foundation partnered with Cook County's Bureau of Economic Development and the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance to create the tool. The resources offered are available at a subsidized price for Cook County employers and, in many cases, are free.

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