For some job seekers, a one-page resume won’t do the trick. For those who might have a harder time connecting with potential employers because of, say, a nontraditional education path or time spent in prison, a digital cloud-based tool called ePortfolio paints a fuller picture.
Developed by Digital On-Ramps, a Philadelphia-based coalition formed to improve workforce services in the city, ePortfolio lets students and hard-to-serve job seekers provide hiring managers with a holistic overview of their accomplishments and skill sets. (Think LinkedIn.) Using a computer or smartphone, users can upload copies of training certifications, letters of recommendation and even examples of important projects they’ve completed during training programs.
“We recognize that as a network of [career service providers] we weren’t working the best at serving the whole person. There was no way to track our clients’ progress as they journeyed throughout different agencies,” says Joanne Ferroni, director of university and community partnerships at Drexel University. The college is the operating home of Digital On-Ramps, but many partners are involved, including the city of Philadelphia, the library and the Community College of Philadelphia.
Anyone who is taking or has completed training with one of the collaborating agencies can access ePortfolio. Agencies sharing clients can communicate to figure out needs and support requirements for those cycling through training and building employment profiles.
“When you’re in high school and college, you get a transcript. But sometimes life happens. Many of us don’t always follow a traditional path. [The tool] allows job seekers a great way to present their skills when there’s been a gap in their resume,” Ferroni says.
Kate Rivera is project director for the Urban Affairs Coalition, which was an early partner of the DOR initiative and piloted ePortfolio in its youth internship program last summer. According to Rivera, nearly 400 youth, ages 14 to 18, used the tool to develop their very first resumes, upload creative works like rap lyrics and poetry, or videos of themselves.
“Every year we help students land internships and have youth in our programs develop a portfolio,” says Rivera. “In the past, they were using the computer to put together their resume and cover letters — emailing it back and forth between their youth advisors. The final product was then printed out and put in a basic binder they could show their employer.”
This was time-consuming for staffers working with upwards of 50 youth at a time. Now, all the documents are available in one place and youth can also update their portfolios over time.
This summer, Rivera and her team hope to expand the tool’s use. Overall, ePortfolio is being rolled out to 1,000 users through the Community College of Philadelphia, and to 2,000 students at 13 Philadelphia high schools.
“This year, we’re thinking about how youth can celebrate their identity and use the tool for both personal and professional development,” she says. “Having a platform that showcases their interests, accomplishments and passions is a way to bring our program to the 21st century and give us a tool youth can use for applying to jobs and colleges.”
The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.
Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology and digital inclusion. Her work has been featured in Black Enterprise Magazine, Triple Pundit and Inhabitat.