Leigh Anne Taylor Knight|Executive Director & COO

The DeBruce Foundation is a national nonprofit foundation based in Kansas City, Missouri. The Foundation’s mission is to expand pathways to economic growth and opportunity.

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Welcome to KC Cares, Kansas city’s non-profit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas city nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the profit and non-profit community. Make the city a better place to live, work and play. KC Cares is proudly sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation.

I’m Ruth Baum Bigus in our teens. We’re often asked, what do you want to do when you grow up? What career were you pursuing? And we don’t know the answer. They’re tough questions when we’re in those young, formative years and getting the most educated guidance hasn’t always been readily available. The debris is foundation based right here in Kansas city offers tools for career literacy that help individuals make more informed career choices, which over time can be a big economic game-changer in our committee.

We are in a time of great change within the workforce. And many are making mid-career changes. The debriefs foundations offerings are helping map the future. Joining us today is Lee Ann Taylor debriefs foundation, executive director, and CEO. Welcome. We’re so happy to have you

with us.

Thank you, Ruth. It’s so nice to be here.

Well, let’s start at the very beginning as a song from a famous musical says the debris foundation. No it’s named after a gentleman. Tell us a little bit about Paul Debruce and the creation of this foundation.

Certainly, well, the diverse foundation was founded more than 30 years ago and has been committed to charitable giving here in the Kansas city region in the arts, healthcare education and civic efforts.

And we are privileged to have Paul and Linda debriefs continuing with that impact that they are having. By way of having asked a recent question to the foundation saying, how can we have impact over the decades to come? And in that particular space, that’s how we got Ruth to our current mission, which is expanding pathways to economic growth and opportunity.

And your intro did us great justice as it relates to thinking about. In these times, as well as, you know, prior to this and, and on into the future, we really have to think about how we help people expand their horizons and think about new and different careers and the ways that they can bring value into the workforce.

Well, it it’s so wonderful that there are people like the bruises in our community who have had foresight to put funds behind. Action. You say the debris has continue to be the core and I hate to throw you that curve ball right at the beginning. But can you share with us a little bit how you’re supported in what you do and then we’ll dive deeper into all the good stuff you’re doing.

Most certainly the Bruce foundation is actually supported by a collection of companies. And so the whole point of those companies is for them to generate funds that then can then come to do the charitable missions. So I think there’s a a lovely history of that here in Kansas city, right?

With American century and a certain percentage of their profits going to the Stowers Institute so that they can work on. Solutions related to cancer. And so very similarly, Mr. D Bruce, and now Linda did, Bruce are a part of S a set of diverse companies that will generate those profits and continue to advance the charitable mission.

So that’s also kind of a unique model, a little bit too, in terms of philanthropy and rather than being a foundation that is giving away, granting a lot of money we’re in this space to think about how to bring some innovative solutions to some of the issues that are out there.

Gotcha. Gotcha. All right.

Career literacy. Lovely word in a conversation, but I’m not sure everybody understands what that means.

Sure. It’s a great question. And I’m actually going to make sure that I hit on all five pieces of career literacy specifically that our research has shown to be very important. And your, your, your introduction was really right in the correct space to think about this.

Have you thought about your future? In terms of a career. So your future career vision has a person thought about that. And how much have they thought about that is an individual aware of the skills and the interest that they have and how that might play out in the marketplace of careers is an individual.

Do they have the ability to communicate their. So even if I know what my career and career interests and strengths are, do I know how to communicate that to someone so that I can land that opportunity in the career marketplace? The fourth one is in the area of job search. So with the economy continually changing with the future of work, changing two thirds of the jobs that are going to be available 12 to 15 years from now, we maybe don’t even know the names of yet.

I’m going to have to continue to say I’m capable of doing job searches, right. And then the fifth area is around exploration of multiple career paths. So do I, as an individual get centered on this is what I’m going to. The only thing that I’ll ever do in my career is this one thing that may be was more of a traditional route to go.

Although I think over the last few decades, we’ve learned that many of us started on a pathway and then pivoted into other opportunities. And I think that’s going to be more and more the case. So when. Talk about career literacy. It’s those five things coupled with this idea of having a robust network roof, people need to have a diverse and broad network, so that even as they begin to think about what are my skills and interests and how I do the job search, Ooh, how do I land into that?

Or how do I learn more about those opportunities that are out there in the world? I love what you’re doing. I wish I had known more to plug my own kiddos into it. It’s so interesting. As a little bit older mature person, how the career path thing has even changed from our parents who were, you know, you stayed somewhere for 40 years, you got the token gold watch and you retired at 65 to, well, I was this for this period of time.

And then I was that, it seems now it’s even. Well, I’m doing this okay. Two years, three years now I’m going to do this and then I’m going to do that. But I’m not sure that this generation is, is totally aware of what you offer. So it’s not just you know, they’re slime at the wall or whatever, throw it and hope it sticks.

So how do you play those five areas out in a tangible.

That was one of the first questions that we had to ask ourselves too. And we will first start with, we know that we’re not going to do this on her. But we did want to bring into the scope of individuals who are trying to expand their career pathways, a really easy way for them to just start to understand the intersection of what they do well and what they like to do Ruth.

And so we created the agile work profiler and the agile work profiler is an online. Assessment, but someone can take in about 10 minutes and at the end of it, know what we like to call their agilities, but it’s really that intersection of work activities used in every job in the economy. And it’s in terms of you, what do you like to do and what do you do well in terms of those, do you get a score?

You actually get feedback as to your number one through 10 agility. So they’re in ranked order and we like to tell folks that’s your today ranked order, because these are things that you can grow and develop and change over time. So experiences, if you think about someone who does a job for 10 years, When they started that job, they probably had one set of things that they like to do well, and that they were good at doing, but across five years or 10 years, or even a, you know, a 10 week internship, they learned some new things.

They learned how to do things better. And so those things actually grow and change over time. So you get your today, answer of your top one through 10 of your agility. And you also get input about how to use those on a resume. How do you use those words in your LinkedIn profile? How to, again, one of the career literacy pieces is the ability to communicate your value in the workplace.

And so giving you words and things that you can put on your LinkedIn profile or your. Right. Or you’re in, in your interview process or your resume is pretty important to help people level up in terms of their career literacy. And so that’s what you get and you can take it. I mean, if you do a summer internship as a, as someone, and you’re like, I wonder if anything’s changed for me across that time.

And so you can go back and do it again. And it is at this point in time, the charitable mission of the foundation is to make this available to individuals as well as Ruth, of course, we’re in Kansas city and even beyond Kansas city we have partners who are working with individuals who might be in a career transition at some point in time and adulthood.

They might be at a transition point because they’re in high school trying to figure out what to do next. They might be at a transition point because they’ve had some type of credentialing or some college hours or complete college degree, what are they going to do next? And in those first steps. And so this is actually a tool that can be used by organizations who are also serving people who are in those transitions and looking to, you know, know more about themselves and how to communicate their.

I love that. It’s not just for the kiddos.

Thank you.

Right? All of us act to think about when I think about, am I going to be working in the next 10 to 12 years? Yes, probably. So if two thirds of the jobs are going to be different than they are today, then it’s really important for all of us to think about this and to know that we do grow and develop over time.

And where, where do folks find. They can find the agile work profiler and the other career literacy tools that we [email protected] That’s our website, agilities.org. You’ll be able to go out there and navigate through and think about it for yourself as an individual, even as a parent, you know, you mentioned being a parent, oh, I wish I would have had this one.

I was working with my own kids or my own, you know, we’ve really encouraged families. This is a great way to start having a discussion with one of the youth who are in your home or in your orbit. Because. Study that we did indicated that 90% of our youth, like in that 14 to 24 age range, 90% of them are confident that they can achieve their career.

So that sounds like this is awesome. And then we learned also in this study that only eight out of 10 of them know how to get prepared for a career. And only about one in three have even decided what they want to do. In their careers. So there’s still a lot of room for us to our parenting and mentoring, teaching, and coaching to help our youth understand more about themselves and kind of help them find those pathways and see that they could bring value in a variety of jobs sectors.

And that’s what the agile work profiler does. Is it really opens you up to look at maybe more things than what you were considering.

Great great access for a lot of folks, but you do more than that. And, and your website is fairly new. I th the launch of your website with all these tools.

Correct. That’s correct.

Ruth. And so some of the other things that people will find at the website is they will find it, that you can come do an agility coach training. So one of our partnering organizations here in town is big brothers, big sisters, and we’ve had them in across a series of day. For the staff, the programming staff at big brothers, big sisters to get trained, to be agility’s coaches.

And then they’ll be going out and helping the bigs who work with the littles, use the agile work profiler, and then engage the agilities with the activities and the experiences that they provide for. So we do that. We have the good fortune of being able to have a lot of wonderful institutions of learning in the Kansas city, metropolitan area, and even beyond, but specifically here in Kansas city, people will know you MKC.

Oh, are some folks that you MKC using it? Absolutely. Thinking about students who are transitioning out of high school and coming to college and how do we. Off on the right foot so that they’re confident. And they believe that they have self-worth as they come into their majors and then helping them be more excited about the classes that they’re taking so that they will, they will stay and they will complete their degrees here at UMK.

So we’re really happy to have those and school districts, right. That are partnering. And even as we think about the real world learning efforts with the Kauffman foundation, Experiences. So many of our companies are providing internships and all kinds of real world learning experiences, project based learning opportunities inside of schools, client-based opportunities.

I mean, it takes this whole community to do this right. And we’re just saying, when you’re doing those, have this conversation, take the agile work profiler, and then discuss what it is that you’re learning and growing and developing when we’re in this particular project.

That’s great that it’s like an octopus with tentacles that are really, really out there reaching.

Let’s talk a little bit about partnerships. I think that’s something that all nonprofits could benefit from and sometimes we kind of think, oh yeah, I should have partners. Yikes. How do I do that? Can you share some insight about how you went out and established?

That’s a great question, Ruth, I’m actually glad that you’re asking it.

First of all, it’s of benefit to be in the Kansas city ecosystem, right? Because people here are like, oh, are you working on that? We’re working on that too. Let’s work together to that for that. And let’s leverage that up. And so I’m going to. Some credit to our Midwest sensibility around that. And just again, even KC Cares and so, you know, knocking on doors, but it really starts with, we ask questions around what we call five A’s.

You know, are you, do we have alignment on this? We have access to the same kinds of audience, or do you have access to an audience that I want to serve or do I have access to something that could help the audience you are serving? Third, can we accelerate your goals? Can you accelerate our goals? So together alignment of mission access to.

Accelerating goals. Will you be an accountability partner? I think partnerships are great, but only to the end that we are talking about how we’re getting return on investment with this intentional investment and how we’re going to measure for impact that like together, our partnership is making a difference.

Thankfully again, here in Kansas city, people are not afraid. Holding one, another accountable holding you. And it’s easier to have an accountability partner, right? Whether I’m at the gym or I’m trying to learn Spanish, or I’m working on solving a great big problem, like helping people expand their pathways to economic growth and opportunity.

So accountability. And then the fifth part about working with partners is you have to think about the allocation of resources. So what time, treasure and talent. Well, the organizations bring the entities bring together and that’s how you can multiply that. It doesn’t have to just be two of you. It can be three of you or five of you.

The KC stem Alliance is one of our partners, but we love to partner with them because they also coordinate the entire stem learning ecosystem that is here in Kansas city. So that’s a whole. Organizations of all different sizes serving, but they have that alignment of mission that willingness to accelerate one another’s goals, access to audience being accountable.

Here’s how we’re making a difference and sharing resources across the board. Those are

great things for folks to, to keep in mind as they look to form those partnerships. I hope folks will take away that and many other things that you’ve talked about. So you have partnerships, but then you also talked a little earlier about networks.

Talk about what that difference is.

Yeah. So I’ll talk about it from the perspective of the individual. So what we’re thinking about at the foundation, again, our mission is to expand pathways to economic growth and opportunity. So we’re constantly asking ourselves the question of what does an individual need in order to be able to be on a pathway.

Economic security and upward mobility. So they need this curd literacy. The first piece that I talked about, understanding their skills and interests a vision for themselves, understanding how to job search, understanding how to communicate their value in that particular space. They need that care literacy, but it’s really hard to go anywhere with that.

If they do not also have a strong and diverse. Network. And that’s one of the places where we’ll bring in a lot of queer literacy tools, but we are looking for partners in the KC community who care and to our many times providing experiences for again, adult. Youth who are providing those experiences where they can, the individual can meet people who they would not otherwise meet, who may have jobs that they’ve never seen of or heard of before, who perhaps live in a different zip code of the city.

Perhaps I’ve had different life experiences in terms of their education. Even the religious background, their race, their gender, and we’ll even exposing them to different kinds of businesses that we have here in Kansas city that sometimes we have some of our best kept secrets. Right. So it really takes.

For us, it takes a network of entities that can provide those kinds of experiences and pair those with some career literacy tools, like what we provide so that the individual is best prepared to go out and, you know, be agile had the agility advantage in this ever-changing career marketplace.

We’re talking with Lee Ann Taylor Knight, who is the executive director and see.

Of the debriefs foundation, where can folks go and kind of get an overview of what you all are doing and what you offer is your website.

Yes, we would welcome people to visit both of our websites. The ad, the agilities.org is one of our websites. So agility’s dot org. And another of our websites is debriefs foundation.

It’s debriefs.org. So both of those websites to bruce.org or agility’s dot org are great places to go learn about what we’re doing now and what we hope to accomplish together with others here in the community. And before.

Great. I wanted to go back to something you’d said when we were talking about partnerships and you said accountability.

So you’ve got these great tools. What data are you finding? What, what is happening once folks, you know, take these? What are you

seeing out? Yeah, accountability. Again, getting proof of concept of what is working really, really well is very important to us, Ruth. So I appreciate your asking that question.

We are finding that when individuals use the agile work profiler immediately we see that they become aware of an affirm, that things that they do well and that they liked. And they begin to start. They at the, even at the end of that particular survey, they already have words that now they can go out.

We’ve seen it happen in career fairs that they can go out and begin to talk about themselves. They have some competence and some self-worth belief in themselves that they can bring something into that particular space. So, so that is an important piece of it. The other thing where some individuals have been able to engage more deeply with an agility.

Coach and do you know, experiences across some of the things that we have on our website. So they take the agile work profiler, and then they go do some career exploration to learn about what’s the demand of certain careers. How do I get prepared for certain ones of those careers? We actually see.

Them climb on the things that we call in terms of the call-out in terms of career literacy, they start to begin to think about a vision that they have. We would invite everyone to go to our website and do the draw your future with agilities experience that we have out there. That’s one way that they start to build up that vision of.

The future self that they can have. Another thing that we have seen is that students who were considering zero to two careers, we think about high school students who have zero to two careers in mind. They actually flip after going through even six experiences and using the agile work profiler to now having five or more kinds of careers.

Ideas and mind careers that they will now consider. And that’s really important for us, for them to think about it’s not just these one or two, but let’s open that spectrum up and help them start to see the diversity across sectors and across different kinds of opportunities. So those are some of the things that we are seeing and also increasing their job search skills.

And we know, again, we’ve learned how important that is. And as we think about into the future, Individuals having to possibly pivot and try new jobs and do job searches. As you mentioned it earlier. Okay. Maybe generations ago, they got a job, they stuck with it one place forever, but that is not what we have seen across the last few decades.

And that’s not what we’re going to see miss a scarily into the future.

I love the word agility because that’s what I think we all need. And. It must be so interesting to talk with particularly young people who are starting out to see that the world has expanded or even creating a world for them. It seems often young people that I meet, my kiddos are in twenties and thirties now, but it’s, it’s, you know, oh, I thought I would do this, but now I could maybe do that.

What are you seeing for those kinds of midlifers are mid-career people, what’s the, the reaction once they’re using your

tools? So it’s very similar in that they have maybe maybe individuals who have only thought. This is the only kind of job that I’ve ever had. I’ve always worked in this sector.

I’ve always had a job. That’s had, you know, this title mixed up the words, but it’s basically been doing the same job. And so to open them up and for them to see there are opportunities out here other. The places where the agilities that we call them, you know, what you do well, and what you like to do that are used in other places, in the economy and the career economy.

And so just helping open them up to consider those things. And then also to be able to explore. What’s my pathway for getting there. What kind of an education or a credential do I need to have, or just understanding that there’s demand for those here in the Kansas city region. There are demand for people in those jobs, in other parts of the country, too.

And so helping individuals see just beyond the day to day of what they see in their own orbit is really important. And I think that’s where with adults. And helping them see, oh, my pathway to this might be actually shorter than what I thought it was. Especially with the institutions of higher learning here in the metropolitan area, really starting to understand that this is about helping people stack credentials.

This is about helping people get what they need to get to that, to level up. And as well as a lot of our cases, That are thinking about how do they upscale individuals who are a part of their companies. So helping them see, oh, I could go do that. I don’t have to just apply for the same thing. I could go do that.

So I think that is important. So, and I do it is important to you to continue to listen to the users of these products. And that’s one of the things we at diverse are trying to do. We have. Great advice, especially on the youth end with our diverse career core. And I would love to get more feedback and more engagement of adults who are using the tools so that we can continue to build them out and think about how they can be even more useful for that particular age group too.

Are you working on a feedback tool or a mechanism now for those over, let’s say over 50.

Yeah, we, well, we have some great partners who have access to those audiences, right? Like Mid-America regional council, KC degrees, K U Edwards. Those are entities who are really in this space of, of serving those groups of individuals and have been great partners along the way.

And we’re continuing, we’re always in the product development. Get more proof of concept with particular audiences. Appreciate the groups that are in that workforce partnership. And those folks are, are helpful to that. And

just the minute or so that we have left, I’m curious on the coaching aspect.

Am I just going to questions or is there a live person that I’m working.

Oh, in terms of what we’re doing is we’re doing a train, the trainer model. So the example of like you MKC, you MKC has individuals who are coaching and navigating students at UMK MKC. And so we do a train, the trainer, we train their folks who they have boots on the ground, and then they have access to those tools and how to help those individuals, KC degrees, the same way the coaches and the navigators who are a part of.

Those organizations and those entities serving that audience are those, we’re not the ones who go direct to those audiences. Right.

But you’re making sure that people who spread the love really know what they’re doing and what

they’re saying. 100% and the people who spread the love also are great in our feedback loop.

They, they will feed back and say, this is working, this isn’t working. We have a really exciting pilot project that we’re working with now with veterans, with veterans, community project here in town. And so piloting that, and I I’d love to come back in a year or two after we do some pilots with veterans and see how it works, then helps them really, again, Thankful for the community partners who are working with those audiences, who we care about and who we know can benefit from career literacy and the agile work profiler, and the other tools that we have.

Well, it’s the diverse foundation doing great work in our constantly changing workforce, that big P word that threw everyone a curve ball, but it sounds like you’re at least providing us with, you know, Current time, ways to assess and move forward, which is so important. So we thank you so much, Leanne for your time and sharing all the great things that you’re doing.

Thank you. Thank you

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