Jeremy Bout believes the biggest challenge for students and parents when making career decisions is having good information. His company, Edge Factor, suggests a solution to the information gap, and he’s bringing the concept to the upcoming Business & Career Expo held by the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The expo is set for 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 3, at the Fort Smith Convention Center.
Bout, 42, founded Niagara Fall, N.Y.-based Edge Factor in 2010 and the company now has around 20 employees. He is the keynote speaker at the chamber’s First Friday Breakfast on the day of the Expo. The breakfast event begins at 7:30 a.m., in the convention center.
According to the chamber, Edge Factor “empowers communities across North America with story-driven tools to tackle workforce development, inspire students, reach parents, and build relationships between local schools and companies.” Bout is not only participating in the Expo, but his program connecting potential employees to employers will become a chamber project, said Tim Allen, chamber president and CEO. The chamber plans to use Edge Factor to “build a regional infrastructure to develop the talent for a variety of career pathways, including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology jobs.”
“Jeremy is a mixed brew of caffeine, ideas that defy convention and passion that drives creativity,” Allen said. “His presentation is going to change the way Fort Smith thinks about our workforce. We’ve also got a surprise that is really going to make businesses take notice. Do not miss this event.”
Allen said Fort Smith is the first location in Arkansas to use Edge Factor as a workforce development tool.
Bout told Talk Business & Politics the key to the program is using videos, short films and other visual platforms to create relationships between education, business and students and their parents. Specifically, the online, searchable platform helps students “gain knowledge about the different types of career pathways.” The program also helps identify where apprenticeships are available, info about associates degrees, and the type of education needed for identified jobs.
“We provide a bread crumb trail for all those involved” in connecting employers to potential workers, Bout said, adding that, for example, “apprenticeships can mean different things in different places” so localized pathways info provided by businesses is important in each community.
Not only are workforce needs often different from region to region, but the nature of work is constantly evolving.
Bout visited Fort Smith in November, meeting with area business and education leaders and touring ABB’s (Baldor) Fort Smith manufacturing plant. He said there is no set time frame in implementing Edge Factor because it depends on how open and willing a community is to try something new. But Bout said he believes “the cycle will be shorter (in Fort Smith) because it’s all hands on deck.”
“We had all the key stakeholders in the room, and it was so clear to me that they had a tremendous willingness to get to work,” Bout said of his November visit.
Once Fort Smith stakeholders learn the Edge Factor methodology and determine the different definitions of success for the various groups, Bout said regional businesses, schools, students and others will be on a path to “build a workforce of tomorrow for their own community.”
“There are opportunities everywhere, and if you live in Fort Smith, you don’t have to go somewhere else to find those opportunities,” Bout said about the importance of creating better connections between employers and students.