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How This Startup Is Helping Disadvantaged, Diverse Talent Increase Their Income 254%

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at September 28, 2021

I scour the globe for stories worth reading about ventures that are a true force for good for humanity and our planet.

 That’s why I’m THRILLED to introduce Nitzan Pelman, CEO of Climb Hire.

Climb Hire helps talent from historically disadvantaged communities transition from below living-wage jobs into middle class corporate roles. Their mission is to create hundreds of millions of dollars in generational wealth for disadvantaged talent in communities of color, who earn minimum wage and work in retail or gig economy jobs, or are unemployed. In partnership with leading employers in the technology and finance sectors, Climb Hire creates pipelines of sought-after talent by teaching an interactive curriculum immersed in a comprehensive peer-community support system.

Their impact to date?

The average “Climber” (what the company calls those they serve) enters Climb Hire’s program earning below $24,000 and earns, on average, $61,000 after the program. After 5 months of nighttime training, companies are hiring this talent for just about every entry-level role in sales, marketing, operations, HR, IT, database management, and more. Within 6 months of graduation, over 80% of Climb Hire alumni have secured middle-class jobs with average wage increases of $30,000-$40,000. 


 Let’s dive into the deep end.


Diana Tsai: What’s the problem you’re solving?

Nitzan Pelman: LinkedIn data shows that the vast majority of job-seekers land jobs through referrals. But how does someone who did not complete college or someone working in a low wage job access high-quality career opportunities without a professional network or influential connections? Often that talent is hidden and overlooked from the very employers who are demanding to find it. How can we resolve this marketplace network talent gap?

Tsai: How are you solving it?

Pelman: Through our curricula offered in partnership with leading employers we create pipelines of diverse talent sought-after by employers in the technology and finance sectors. 

So much potential talent is stuck in low wage jobs because people lack a network of peers and colleagues who can connect them to better opportunities in the corporate world.  Climb Hire activates community and social capital in service of overlooked talent that traditionally has not had access to these networks critical to professional success.

Tsai: How do you define & measure impact? What is the impact you’ve made to date?

Pelman: We aim to serve thousands of Climbers every year to create hundreds of millions of dollars in generational wealth. We have been remarkably delighted by the strength of the outcomes thus far and have a unique opportunity to deepen our impact and expand throughout the country. In the last 7 months we have nearly doubled in size and graduated over 100 Climbers. Our goal was to go from serving less than 100 Climbers in our first year to serving close to 300 in our second year. We are on target to exceed those projections in triplicate by the end of 2021. 

To create economic opportunity and mobility for historically disadvantaged populations, we train diverse, determined and overlooked talent to obtain meaningful employment through four learning tracks focused on Salesforce Administrator Certification, Customer Success in partnership with, Google Project Management, and Fidelity Financial Services. Climbers learn how to enjoy learning and rebrand success. The centerpiece of our model is alumni with secure new jobs returning as “Fellows”, role models and community builders, creating a safe space for Climbers to ask questions, build confidence, practice relationship building, and learn content. This supports Climbers beyond graduation and maintains community participation. The vision is for our near-peer model to grow a thriving alumni community to serve as an alternative to an elite Ivy-league school network. 

The average Climber enters our program earning below $24,000. After 5 months of nighttime training, companies such as Discord, SkillUp, Gusto, CannGen Insurance Services, Checkr, and Wiserspread are hiring our talent for just about every entry-level role out there — sales, marketing, operations, HR, IT, database management, and more. Within six months of completing Climb Hire, 80% of our alumni have secured middle class jobs with average wage increases of $30,000-$40,000. We are scaling up fast and plan to grow our impact by 5x in the next 12 months based on employer demand. 

Tsai: What’s a story of a life you’ve transformed through your work? 

Pelman: Abdul grew up in Afghanistan under unbearable and violent living conditions. His only means of survival was through his mom who earned just enough to get by with odd jobs, an unimaginable life for a single mother of six in Afghanistan. Their security as human beings was always in question, and they didn’t dream to hope for a better future. It was only when he immigrated to the United States seven years ago that hope became a reality. Abdul struggled to keep afloat during his transition to the United States. After getting legal papers approved, learning English, assimilating to western culture, and finding work, Abdul held down three jobs to make ends meet. He worked at Jack in the Box during the day, served as a security guard at night, and drove Uber on the weekends. While these jobs’ income helped him and my family back in Afghanistan, it was far from a dream career. After studying English for a year and business for three years, Abdul received his associate degree in Business Administration. He applied to hundreds of entry-level jobs and was rejected over and over again. 

 Those painful rejections were slowly making him lose hope again until a chance encounter with one of his Uber passengers opened up his world. He found Climb Hire in a search to achieve his new goal of becoming a Salesforce System Administrator.  

Abdul’s experience at Climb Hire has truly been life-changing. Abdul earned his Salesforce Administrator certificate in four months and with a newfound confidence secured a role as a Business Systems Analyst at Gusto. He found an immensely fulfilling and purposeful career as part of an organization whose mission is to create a world where work empowers a better life. We are filled with pride to share that after only a few short months at Gusto, Abdul’s skill and tenacity have earned him a near six-figure salary, nearly tripling his income in 9 months. Abdul embodies the Climb Hire community spirit of care and support by volunteering his spare time to coach and help fellow Climbers study for their Salesforce exams, as well as growing networks for the next set of Climbers looking to develop their career potential.


Tsai: What does the world look like once you’ve solved this problem?

Pelman: As more people are able to form relationships that can be leveraged into recommendations, referrals, and meaningful work experience through workforce training and development, Climb Hire is able to offer a powerful solution to the bedeviling problem of how we can best support overlooked and hidden talent to access better careers, and empower more families to establish financial stability. By linking this diverse talent source to the employers who seek them, we minimize the network and talent gaps and change the color and face of corporate America. By helping people double or triple their income year over year, we create hundreds of millions of dollars in generational wealth for underserved populations. 

By changing the narrative about “how to” and “who can” access economic opportunity we begin to change the shape of economic recovery. We begin to peel away the entrenched layers of multigenerational poverty and systemic inequity in this country and go beyond the rhetoric to give all candidates — traditional and nontraditional — a chance to build a better life for themselves and their families. 


Tsai: What motivated you personally to start this company/organization?

 Pelman: I struggled in a traditional U.S. education system as a child. Labeled a special education student in first grade, I finished high school without ever reading a book. My first college exam was returned, questioning if English was my first language. I was raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community where following convention was a way of life but by the end of college, questioning the status quo, I felt I could no longer align with these values and traditions and left. I began my career on the regional team at Teach For America New York in 1999 to help communities of color access better educational experiences. Despite obvious racial and socio-economic differences between the impoverished Black and brown students and the affluent, white, Jewish community from which I came, I felt we were all victims of “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” While I was privileged to overcome a limiting label with the fortunate support of a Harvard-alumni mentor, systemic barriers to education and upward mobility are pervasive. 

Serving as an Entrepreneur in Residence at LinkedIn in 2018, I learned job seekers are 4-5x more likely hired by referral. Realizing every opportunity I received through connections and network, it became clear that innovative workforce models must bake in social capital to programmatic design. Focused on reframing the sense of possibility, I started Climb Hire to challenge society’s approach to education and preparation for success. After passing extremely hard exams and securing jobs increasing wages by $30,000-$40,000, hundreds of Climbers are re-imagining themselves and their possibilities within a supportive learning community and critical network of peers.


Tsai: A little vulnerability – how do you take care of you so that you can show up as the best version of you to serve others?

Pelman: I walk up and down a very steep mountain every day. It’s a 4 mile walk. I do it on zoom and while taking calls with my team. My team is used to my huffing and puffing. Everyone around me knows it’s the way I keep my calm and cool and process the world. I’ve always been a fierce exerciser, but during COVID I took it up a few notches and it feels great! I also listen to lots of podcasts to keep my brain active. 


Tsai: How can readers get involved / support / help?

Pelman: Social Capital is the essence of our model. Readers can sign up on our website to volunteer and share their professional expertise by helping our Climbers practice and refine interview skills and build networking connections that extend beyond our virtual events and into the job search. Help our Climbers build social capital and have a great time too!


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