As a diversity consultant, I frequently talk to clients about the importance of diversity recruiting. And with the shrinking talented labor pool along with its increasing diversity, companies and organizations need to start early to build a more diverse talent pipeline. I recently met a fascinating young man, Dan Gonzalez, Co-Founder of “District C”, a nonprofit working to build the diverse talent pipeline of the future, starting with high school students.
Dan Gonzalez, co-founder of District C
Here is my interview with Dan:
Stan: Could you tell me more about your organization and exactly what your mission is?
Dan: I’ll start far afield with a few basketball stats, but I promise to bring it back to District C! In the 1983-1984 season, NBA teams averaged just over 2 3-point shot attempts per game. This past season, they averaged 32 3-point attempts per game (https://www.basketball-reference.com/). Wow… the game has changed! It’s no surprise that youth players across the world are preparing for a new style of play dominated by the 3-point shot. Because if you aspire to a career as a competitive basketball player, being a 2-point player just won’t cut it anymore.
Work is changing, too. Employers are increasingly looking for a different kind of talent. They need people who appreciate diversity for the power it brings to a team. People who know how to leverage the diverse strengths and perspectives of others. People who know how to tackle complex, novel problems. This is the 3-point player of the modern economy.
Yet just 11% of business leaders strongly agree that recent college graduates are prepared for today’s work (Gallup, 2018). That’s a problem. We can’t keep preparing 2-point players for a 3-point labor market. In short, District C prepares 3-point players. We teach high school students how to work in diverse teams to solve complex problems.
District C’s programs help high students learn how to work productively on diverse teams.
Stan: What kind of programs do you offer, and who is your target audience?
Dan: We have two programs. Our #FirstInTalent Accelerator teaches the next generation of early talent (high school students) how to work in diverse teams to solve complex problems. In teams of four (four students from four different schools), students work to solve real problems for real businesses. When recruiting students, we work hard to reach every corner of the region and every kind of school imaginable so that we can build teams with students who bring different backgrounds and strengths to the work. After all, you can’t teach students how to leverage the diverse strengths of others unless you put them in truly diverse teams.
And through our Coaching Institute, we train educators and schools to adopt our learning model back in their school communities.
We have reached over 400 students and 40 educators since our founding in early 2017. Through our #FirstInTalent movement, we aim to put the Triangle, North Carolina region on the map as a national leader in diverse talent development.
Stan: On a personal level, what inspired you to start District C?
Dan: The world has lots of problems to solve and opportunities to seize. As educators, we need to do better at preparing our next generation of talent with the tools they need to solve these problems and seize these opportunities. If we don’t, these students will struggle to find fulfilling careers that pay a living wage, and our companies and institutions will struggle to find the talent they need to sustain and grow their organizations.
Stan: Not only is your work interesting, but I am intrigued by your organization’s name. What is behind the name / meaning of the name “District C?”
Dan: The “C” stands for collective. The main focus of our learning model is teaching individuals how to leverage the power of a diverse collective to produce ideas and solutions bigger and better than any one person could generate on their own. District C strives to bring students together from all over the region… students who bring different backgrounds, experiences, and strengths. Our hope is that our students leave the program with the mindsets and tools needed to appreciate and leverage the power of difference.
Stan: How can businesses and the community support your important work?
Dan: Thanks for asking! Two ways that businesses can support District C: (1) provide a real business problem for our teams of students to solve, (2) become a #FirstInTalent Member Organization, and receive all of the benefits of membership, by making a financial contribution.
Stan: Thank you for sharing a little about your organization and its work. I wish you the best with your critical mission in today’s world. So how can people find more information about District C?
Dan: Website: www.districtc.co/