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New program looks to help a group that often struggles to re-enter the workforce: stay-at-home parents

The B2E program provides paid training, mentorship and a yearlong contract in project management to individuals interested in careers in the IT industry.

The B2E program provides paid training, mentorship and up to a year employment contract in project management to individuals interested in careers in the IT industry.

College-educated jobseekers with prior employment experience seldom have much trouble finding a place in the workforce, with one exception: longtime stay-at-home parents.

That’s a reality that IT professional Nora Gottwalt came to terms with two years ago, when she tried to re-enter the workforce after putting her career on hold for 13 years to care for her four children. On good days, she would receive calls from some Twin Cities employment recruiters, only to have the calls end abruptly as the recruiters learned she had been a stay-at-home mom for more than a decade. On bad days, “I would apply for jobs and not get any responses,” she said. 

Gottwalt’s experience is not uncommon. According to the Pew Research Center, almost a third of mothers now do not work outside the home. Yet most of these women want to return to the workforce at some point in the future, despite the employment gaps that can pose a significant barrier to finding good jobs. 

B2E training sessions

In response to that situation, York Solutions — a national IT consulting firm — recently launched Minneapolis-based Barriers to Entry (B2E), a program aimed at helping stay-at-home parents, veterans and longtime other unemployed and underemployed people struggling to re-enter the workforce.

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The B2E program provides paid training, mentorship and up to a year contract of employment in project management to individuals interested in careers in the IT industry. Participants of the program aren’t required to have experience in IT. Or possess advanced degrees. Or belong to any particular racial or ethnic background.

“They come from a multitude of backgrounds,” Silvia Hinton, program vice president, said of the participants. They include a forensic psychologist, an event planner and designer as well as a nonprofit leader. “We bring them in,” she added, “we train them … and we employ them.”

The first B2E session took place in early November with classroom instruction. The nine-member class concentrated on project management practices, while also polishing their interview, résumé-writing and communications skills. 

When the three-week training was completed, York Solutions provided all participants with full-time IT project management positions at local corporate clients, including 3M, Cargill and Data Recognition Corporation.

B2E also offers participants access to mentors and ongoing support throughout the year, as they learn to navigate the workforce and hone their craft. They’re assigned to real-life project management duties, which includes coordinating project meetings, maintaining project documentation and providing administrative assistance.

“When I talked to the women in my group [about returning to the workforce], they expressed their frustration,” said Hinton, who also teaches in the program. “They have the degrees; they have the experience; but, because they’ve taken a break, they are not able to re-enter the workforce.”

Creating career pathways

After 13 years of staying home with her young children, Gottwalt decided to return to the workforce two years ago. She phoned companies, inquired about employment opportunities and submitted applications. 

Even with a computer science degree and eight years of experience in the IT industry, though, Gottwalt couldn’t get anything better than the occasional seasonal job.

So, eventually, she turned to York Solutions. “I talked to somebody at [the company] about a year ago, but it was just slow hiring at that time,” she said. A year later, she called again. This time, someone at York told her about B2E, which had just been established.

Gottwalt applied for the program and by early November she had begun the three-week classroom training with eight other participants.  

Today, Gottwalt is a consultant with 3M, where she helps lead projects, perform IT duties and data entry. “I know I’ve worked hard as a mom and I’ve worked hard with my kids,” she said. “But it’s nice to go out and use my analytical skills and what I went to school for.”