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Diversity In Action

College is a good place to work, HERC tells techies

California institutions of higher education banded together to recruit diverse techies and other staffers. Now the rest of the nation is catching on

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Nancy Aebersoled

NoCal HERC director Nancy Aebersold introduced the job-search website.

'The diversity of the applicant pool is integral to campus missions and hiring practices and of key interest to our members," says Nancy Aebersold, director of the Northern California Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC).

HERC began in Northern California in 2000, bringing campuses together to address challenges of recruitment and retention. The University of California-Santa Cruz took the lead, assembling HR directors and faculty affairs vice-provosts from institutions in the Bay area to see what could be done to boost recruitment.

As dual-career director for U Cal-Santa Cruz, Aebersold introduced the idea of a one-stop shopping website for local campuses in 2003.

The original idea was to help spouses and partners of people being transferred into the area find their own employment with local schools. "People told me they had to visit dozens of websites just to find out about local positions in their fields," Aebersold says.

Launched in September 2004, www.norcalherc.org is now serving all sorts of job-hunters, not just the "trailing spouses." Northern California HERC (Oakland, CA) includes forty institutions of higher learning. Southern California HERC (San Diego, CA) is made up of twenty-nine. More HERCs are starting up nationwide: New Jersey HERC (Princeton, NJ) has twenty-seven member institutions, New England HERC (Cambridge, MA) has twenty-five, and others are in the works.

Members of the consortium benefit from consolidation of resources and an expanded pool of qualified, diverse applicants. The HERC websites also give welcome visibility to some of the smaller schools.

Any accredited institution of higher education can join HERC: four-year colleges, junior colleges and professional, business and technical schools. "The diversity of our membership benefits us all when we're sharing information and best practices. It's a really interesting exchange," Aebersold says.

The schools are looking for academic, administrative, staff and executive folks. Systems engineers, network engineers, programmer/analysts, database and support people make up the technical postings.

Becky Scov is co-director of the Southern California HERC. To help attract a diverse pool of candidates to view job openings, Scov partners with online recruiting services and organizations like BDPA, and attends diversity-focused career fairs. Scov's co-director Jennifer Park notes that the group will "research other organizations for our members if they're trying to target particular groups."

Aebersold is planning a website upgrade which will capture demographics to ensure the target audience is being reached. She's also adding an exit survey to see how users like the site. A number of success stories have already come to light through twice-yearly surveys.

Both Aebersold and Scov are excited about the advantages of higher ed as an employer. Higher ed still offers pensions and employer contribution retirement plans, they note. There's greater job stability and good opportunity for promotion.

Schools also place a real emphasis on professional development and make courses and discounts available. In fact, "The whole work/life balance can be better," Aebersold declares.

Because of its usefulness to the entire University of California (UC) system, the northern program was recently moved from the Santa Cruz campus to the office of the UC president in Oakland. Scov and Park are located at U California-San Diego.

HERC continues to expand and the founding organization is now helping establish chapters nationwide. Other HERCs are developing in upstate New York and in the Metro New York and Southern Connecticut region.



HERC is a partnership of educational institutions promoting employment opportunities with members. Four regional HERCs are now operating and more are in the planning stages


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