New nonprofit to help displaced workers sync talents with opportunities

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COVID-19 has forced many people out of their jobs – in some cases, jobs they have held for years, jobs from which they had one day hoped to retire. Now, those same people face the prospect of having to enter entirely different lines of work.

And the old resume touting years of dedication to a career that no longer exists has been rendered useless.

So, asks the displaced worker, what now?

Enter Raghu Misra, described as a “serial entrepreneur,” the man behind Wired2Perform, a talent-growth platform that’s building workforce agility for the future. Misra has launched a nonprofit to help workers hit hard by recent layoffs: Sapna Foundation.

Sapna is the Hindi word for “dream,” and it’s an appropriate name for Misra’s newest initiative. Misra said his purpose in life has always been to help other people.

“My dream is to have other people’s dreams become reality,” he said.

In fact, he had long wanted to launch Sapna, but other priorities kept it always on the back burner.

The nonprofit is partnering with Wired2Perform, which is uniquely positioned to enable Sapna’s mission.

Job-seekers can take advantage of this new tool by going to www.sapna.foundation and signing up. They will create a profile that reveals their skills, interests, talents and aspirations. Prospective employers can then use that information to find candidates who represent an ideal fit for available jobs.

This is particularly useful in cases where the talent pool appears to be shallow for new positions or where a perfect match may be someone who has been working in an unrelated field and may not think to move in a new direction.

Though this would be helpful for those seeking to redefine their career, the nonprofit’s initial launch is focusing on serving those who are unemployed, previously incarcerated, transitioning from military careers or recently graduated from a college or trade school.

COVID-19 has devastated retail, hospitality, travel, tourism and other industries. MGM Resorts International has laid off 18,000, Boeing 19,000, American Airlines 19,000 and Coca-Cola 4,000, to name a few global employers that have had to furlough workers.

But it was an announcement by Jacksonville-based Stein Mart that served as a catalyst for Misra’s initiative.

After 112 years in business, the department store chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. Hundreds of stores would be closed and thousands of employees laid off.

“I woke up that night asking myself, ‘Raghu, what are you waiting for?’” he said.

The idea has inspired others.

“The response has been, frankly, phenomenal,” Misra said.

In fact, former Jacksonville mayor John Delaney has signed on to become a partner in the initiative.

“The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce is enthusiastic about this new and innovative workforce development platform,” said Isabelle Renault, Chamber president and CEO. “More businesses are seeking the competitive advantages of locating here, and Sapna Foundation is one more strong way to connect with and build a skilled workforce that is happier and more productive by putting the right people in the right positions.”

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