The changing landscape of community employment

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By Tali Feinberg

“Getting a job in the community used to be easy, but this is no longer the case. Recruitment has become completely professionalised according to world class principles,” says Shelly Korn, director of Staffwise, the Jewish job centre that is driving this change in the Cape Town Jewish community and beyond.

Jewish continuity is dependent on its organisations being led by highly professional, committed and talented directors and staff. “People are the biggest asset in any service-based organisation. Whether working in education, welfare, advocacy or fundraising; community workers dedicate their careers to making Cape Town and South Africa a better place for Jews. Yet communal staff is often treated as an afterthought,” says Korn.

This is where Staffwise has stepped in, working closely with organisations like the Cape Board of Deputies, ORT Jet, Mensch and Jewish Community Services to make the Jewish community the ‘Employer of Choice’ for talented professionals.

Korn adds that from her experience, the younger generation is now viewing a professional career in the community as an attractive option. They actively seek positions in community and align themselves with communal organisations and Jewish causes they feel passionate about. New organisations like the Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute (EOLI) have tapped into this demand, offering in-depth, practical training for professionals wanting to work in the community sector.

Following an 18-month transformation process, Staffwise has revolutionised what it offers, now operating as a Jewish job centre. Working closely with community organisations, they recently concluded three high level placements: directors of the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies, the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre, and Jewish Community Services.

Their rigorous process includes everything a prospective employer or candidate could want: psychometric and skills testing, group and individual scenario-based assessments, competency-based interviews, reference checks and vetting services.

In addition, they support communal organisations with all their HR needs, including on-boarding, probation performance and change management, and offer career coaching and mentoring as well as referrals, introductions and networking services to all job seekers through every age and stage of their career.

It is predicted that by 2020, 45% of the US workforce will be freelancing, and South Africa is expected to reach this ratio by 2025. Staffwise also assists this growing segment of the community with finding new opportunities providing advice, introductions and resources to freelancers, entrepreneurs and independent business owners.

“Staffwise has come into the new era of employment. It is not just a placement agency… they ensure that there is a deep understanding of the customer, the context of the organisation and its history, mission and vision,” says Cape Board Deputy Chairperson Viv Anstey.

In addition, she believes that the Jewish community can play a key role in ensuring experience and even employment for graduates in an increasingly competitive job market. “The Jewish business sector is a valuable resource for job shadowing, mentorship, articles and workmanship, ensuring a future for our kids here,” she adds.

Staffwise recently placed Hazel Levin as the new director of Jewish Community Services (JCS). “When I was looking for a career change, Staffwise helped me create a professional CV when I hadn’t made one in 30 years,” she says. When she applied for the position at JCS, she had to do a psychometric test through the job centre, and was given guidance on prepping for interviews and exactly what the job entailed. “The application process was rigorous and intense, and Staffwise pushed me to articulate my vision for the organisation and its growth. Their attention to detail and professionalism was top quality,” she adds.

When selecting a new Director for the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre, Myra Osrin found Staffwise to have a deep insight and intuition about the organisation that she had founded. “The process they put the applicants through was practical and very thorough.

They also offered excellent advice and solutions. They were spot on! It’s amazing to have such a service in our small community,” she says. She also found them very helpful in guiding the application process of the new Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute.

Along with its work in the community, Staffwise has become a key player in the commercial space. “The quality of engagement was incredibly robust,” says Andrew Davies, CEO of Signapps Catalyst, a start-up technology company in Cape Town. After struggling to find the right candidate to suit a specific role, his wife suggested he contact Staffwise, and he hasn’t looked back.

As a small business, he found Staffwise’s low costs, attention to detail and “super professional” service to be hugely beneficial. “They drove the whole process — translating the brief, short-listing and analyzing the candidates, and providing feedback. They accessed a very interesting pool of people and certainly found the right one. I would definitely use Staffwise again.”

Amazingly, the Jewish job centre model cannot be found anywhere else in the country. This demonstrates the future-focused, professional nature of the Cape Town Jewish community, and the outlook definitely looks bright. With resources like these, everyone from the most vulnerable to the most experienced has a chance to put their best foot forward, and make the community the best it can be.

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