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Empowering Employment > Leadership > Staffing & Recruiting

CEO of Manchester Bidwell, On How ‘Experience Drives Performance’

BillStricklandMichaelRayAt the recent 2013 CIETT World Employment Conference in Toronto, Canada, Eric Gilpin, President of CareerBuilder’s Staffing & Recruiting Group, spoke with Bill Strickland, President & CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation. Strickland is a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” award winner, the author of Make the Impossible Possible and a recipient of The White House’s “Coming Up Taller” Award, among other distinctions. Former e-Bay President Jeff Skoll has called Strickland is a “genius” for his ability to see “the inherent genius in everyone.” The following Q&A between Gilpin and Strickland is an excerpt from The CareerBuilder Recruitment Guidebook, featuring the Q2 2013 U.S. Job Forecast. See the full interview and the complete Q2 2013 Job Forecast here.

What motivated you to open your first center for the arts? What initially got me motivated was my personal experience with an art teacher I had, who, in some respects, saved my life. I was performing poorly in public school, and he got me really excited about working with clay, to a point where I actually got pretty good at it. He encouraged me to go to college. I attended to the University of Pittsburgh during the time of the riots, and I really wanted to do something to provide an alternative to that violence. I thought if I could get kids involved in the arts like I had been, I might be able to make a little bit of a difference in their lives. I set up a little art studio in a row house in Manchester, and started working with kids on the streets to get them to think differently about their lives. Soon, it just took off.

You’ve had so many successes since then. Does one particular moment stand out? Of the many moments, one of the most pivotal happened 12 years ago when I was in the Silicon Valley giving my famous slide show. A guy came out of the audience and said, “Wow, that was quite a talk. I’d really like to work with you.” He turned out to be Jeff Skoll, the founder of eBay, and he has since become a good friend. More importantly, he helped me realize that I had a scalable idea and could build these centers all over the world. So meeting Jeff was an extremely pivotal moment, because he really got behind the idea of expanding beyond Pittsburgh.

You speak about people needing to believe in themselves to succeed. When did you begin really believing in yourself and finding the confidence to be a success? Or is it something that you’ve always had? Well, I certainly had confidence – that came from my mother – but I didn’t have any experience putting that set of feelings to work. Experience drives performance, not just ideas. You have to DO something. I acquired successful experiences one step at a time, so the real point here is that it’s not magic; it’s hard work that really gets you ahead.

How do you differentiate yourself from other companies? One of the biggest differentiators is our environment. Every center we build is furnished by Steelcase, [one of our partners], so they are very beautiful, physical environments. Beautiful environments create beautiful students.  Values are also important. If we’re working with troubled kids or unemployed adults, we have to make sure that we are solution and not the problem. So we built beautiful facilities with an extraordinary faculty and a value system that says everyone can perform. We look at what some people would label “liabilities” as assets. Once you start treating every student as an asset – guess what? They start behaving like it.

CareerBuilder’s “Empowering Employment” initiative strives to recognize and partner with companies that are putting people back to work or reskilling employees. What do you think the most important aspects of the Empowering Employment message are? Right now, we’re very primitive about matching capabilities to employment, particularly in distressed communities. We have thousands of people who are unemployed and need to go to work, so we need to be smarter about how to fill the employment needs with these people. Once we line up jobs and people in a more intelligent way and take some of the haphazardness out of the equation, we can get training institutions to be more strategic and focused in what they’re providing. This will create a better match between the employer’s requirement and the community’s need. The public school system is not aligned with industry requirements or needs; there is currently a big divergence and it needs to be put to an end. I think using CareerBuilder’s strategy can have national and international significance, and we can pave the way for others to follow. Now, that would be quite a story.

Darcy Horath

About Darcy Horath

As the Marketing Specialist for CareerBuilder’s Staffing & Recruiting Group, Darcy develops marketing content to both examine and highlight the staffing industry. Through her articles, she hopes to shine light on important topics in staffing, such as: candidate attraction and engagement, data and technology to drive business, and empowering employment. She also oversees the Staffing & Recruiting Group’s Facebook and LinkedIn social media pages. Along with marketing, Darcy has a background in sales and public relations and before settling in Chicago, she lived and worked in London, Buenos Aires, Steamboat Springs, and Sydney.
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