Here To Stay: Tech Valley Connect Welcomes High-Level Job Seekers And Their Families

Work may be what initially attracts professionals to Tech Valley, but what keeps them here is the feeling that they are home.

That's where Tech Valley Connect comes in, providing relocation resources for new and recent hires and their families, according to Angela McNerney, president.

"What we're doing is very comprehensive, and we're finding it to be an incredible tool in getting people to stay here," she said. "We want to break that sense of isolation people feel when they relocate, and we want to help them build ties on a professional and a personal level. We can introduce them to other families and start friendships.

"Tech Valley Connect is a consortium of professional and Ph.D. hiring employers in the Capital Region that provide informational interviews for accompanying spouses of hired Ph.D.'s and professionals.

Dr. Robert Palazzo, provost at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), spearheaded Tech Valley Connect as a leadership-driven initiative when it was in the pilot stage.

"We were concerned about family relocation to the area as a recruitment and retention issue," he said. "People were motivated to leave because their partners couldn't find a satisfying career path. We submitted a grant to the Elsevier Foundation for two years to set up the pilot program. Our volume of activity grew, we established a platform demonstrating success, and we've since established ourselves as a 501(c)(3).

"Angela McNerney and Julie Hansen assist new hires and their families with relocation through Tech Valley Connect "We wanted a commitment from high-level professionals for information interviews," McNerney said. "It's more powerful to meet someone face to face, and we wanted that to reverberate in a professional network. Professionals get high-level interviews and their spouses come in and are referred to other people who are in the know about positions that may be opening up. They can start building a professional network, which is invaluable.

"Personal profile Julie Hansen, Tech Valley Connect's coordinator, sits down with each family and conducts a customized interview to determine their work and lifestyle preferences. "I try to gauge who they are and what they like to do," she said. "I review their resume, encourage them to get involved in social networking and set up professional networking interviews.

"Hansen is on-call to make the transition as smooth and efficient as possible, helping families decide on such details as swimming lessons, special needs resources for children, joining a gym or finding a good veterinarian.

The cost of losing an employee who relocates for a position can be two-and-a-half times the salary per company, McNerney pointed out, so it makes economic sense to keep highlevel employees –– and their families –– satisfied.

"This is an incredible budget drain for a company to lose someone when they don't have to," she said. "The top reason for losing a Ph.D. in the first two years is because the spouse hadn't been accommodated, in terms of career placement. The second reason was because the family didn't assimilate well.

If those are the top two reasons, that's doable. We look at this as the 'welcome wagon on steroids,' and we're intensely focused on helping people want to stay here." The program originally started at Ph.D. level but now accommodates all senior level job candidates, as well.

Jessica Nauth relocated to the Capital Region nearly two years ago, when her husband was hired as an assistant professor at RPI in the department of chemical and biological engineering. A Wisconsin native, Nauth's background is in nonprofit administration and international relations. As she seeks a position in a nonprofit or a higher educational setting, she finds Tech Valley Connect to be quite beneficial in continuing along her career path.

"The networking interviews were very helpful and interesting. I learned a lot about the structures and job opportunities in local universities," she said. "I met a lot of people who now know my name, skills and background, and they have sent me job listings they have come across. Everyone I met provided me with additional contacts in the area. These meetings also let me practice skills that would be useful for going on job interviews, such as knowing the right questions to ask potential employers and explaining my background and skills.

"Linking new hires with volunteer opportunities is one reason why SEFCU recently chose to support Tech Valley Connect with a $25,000 grant, according to John DeCelle, SEFCU's chief marketing officer.

"We're excited to work with our friends at Tech Valley Connect to help their clients assimilate to life in the Capital Region," he said. "One of our goals is to assist in connecting them with nonprofits that we work with so they can join us in making a difference in the community. A major need that nonprofits have right now is getting people to volunteer, so if we're able to connect a new resident to the area with a community group whose mission aligns with their passion, that's a win-win.

"SEFCU is not only supporting Tech Valley Connect with a grant, but also by providing access to its resources; courses in Tech Valley Connect's comprehensive expatriate program, designed by LinguaLinx, Inc., will be offered at SEFCU's headquarters in Albany, McNerney noted.

Although Tech Valley Connect began with RPI, it has grown to include more than a dozen consortium members, including Albany Medical College, GE Healthcare, MVP Healthcare, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, The Sage Colleges, SEFCU, SEMATECH, Skidmore College, Taconic, Time Warner Cable, the University at Albany and the Wadsworth Center/Health Research, Inc.

"What sells this program is we don't just meet and greet people when they get here; we stay with the family for an entire year," McNerney said. "They have access to a real, live person. We are having a great time getting them involved in things they love, and we can do this by integrating them into volunteer opportunities in the region. Tech Valley Connect is very valuable, both as a recruitment tool and a retention tool.

For more information on Tech Valley Connect, contact Angela McNerney at Angela.McNerney@TechValleyConnect.com or 518.275.5032 or visit TechValleyConnect.com