The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

January 15, 2017

Opportunity Knocks for Disadvantaged Youth

A college degree, some say, is the new high school diploma.  Hard to get a good job without it.  But there should be another path for industrious non-college graduates to find a meaningful career.  One of Seattle’s biggest companies, Expeditors, offers such a path for disconnected youth.  It’s an inspirational story that more companies could replicate ….

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Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss, this is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.
Jim Hessler: Welcome to the show. I’m a Jim Hessler. I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development. I’m the author along with my co-host of the book Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face and this is the show that we just love doing together and it’s the show for anyone who is or has a boss. Hi partner.
Steve Motenko: You are The Business Guy?
Jim Hessler: I’m the Business Guy … .
Steve Motenko: It’s been a couple of months since we’ve been in the studio.
Jim Hessler: I know it’s been a while.
Steve Motenko: You forgot to say you’re The Business Guy.
Jim Hessler: You look older.
Steve Motenko: I am older. The holidays took it out of me.
Jim Hessler: Yeah for sure.
Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m The Psychology Guy. I’m a Harvard educated leadership coach and a partner along with my friend in both creation of the book he mentioned, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face which is a guide to building your leadership platform as well as kind of all other aspects of the business I partner with Jim about. As he said we love doing the show together, we hope to offer you a little bit of workplace wisdom with heart and humor and what are we talking about today Jim?
Jim Hessler: Well on our show today we’re bringing a couple people in from a really significant company headquartered here in Seattle called Expeditors which kind of flies under the radar, we hope we’ll be raising their profile with you today.
Steve Motenko: It’s hard to be a $7 billion company that flies under the radar.
Jim Hessler: … and not get noticed as much as they do but they’re here to talk about a program called “Opportunity Knocks” and I’m not going to steal any of their thunder but it’s really worth hearing about and I’m really pleased they’re on. Steve, we’ve talked on the show before about our careers and how they’ve kind of taken different arcs and different directions, I’m kind of the old school, schooled in experience kind of guy.
Steve Motenko: Hard knocks.
Jim Hessler: Hard knocks. Went to college for a couple years but it didn’t sit that well with me.
Steve Motenko: You weren’t quite smart enough to make it through.
Jim Hessler: Yeah that’s it. The academic world just didn’t really work for me. I got married quite young. Still happily married to that same woman for 40 years now but life got in the way and I didn’t finish college and I was very fortunate because I was able; not only did I have some initiative and try to make things happen for myself and I wasn’t victimized by my lack of a college education, I went out and made things happen anyway.
Steve Motenko: Yeah such that I’ll say it, in case you weren’t going to: You became a vice president of a fortune 150 company at age 36.
Jim Hessler: That’s correct.
Steve Motenko: I guess you probably did have some initiative.
Jim Hessler: I guess that’s kind of a success story worth talking about because we’ve created a circumstance in our culture where we put such an enormous emphasis on high education and I love it, I wish I had a college degree and I have no argument with anybody who gets a college education; but there needs to be another path, there needs to be other ways that people can get into the workforce and rise up to levels of responsibility and achievement without necessarily having to have a college education, and that’s what this “Opportunity Knocks” program is about. I worry for young people now that they get out of high school and there’s this heavy cloud hanging over them that “oh god, I have to get a college education. I have to do this, I have to do that” and or “I’ll be working as a barista for the rest of my life” and I think that that’s unfortunate. I think there should be ways that people can see their talents come forth and contribute in a significant way.
Steve Motenko: Without college.
Jim Hessler: Without college.
Steve Motenko: You might think with my Harvard degree – and actually you probably know me better than that – but one might think with my Harvard degree that I would be advocating on the other side: “You’ve really got to go to college, it’s extremely important.” You said the “academic world didn’t work for you” or something like that, and actually I could use the same words because I was not ready for college when I went to college and the fact that it was Harvard made it actually even worse.
Jim Hessler: Yeah.
Steve Motenko: I was going through adolescent identity crises, I didn’t know who I was. All these people at Harvard were so much more motivated and so much more confident than I was and I think if I had had a chance to do something else and had the courage to at least take a break after high school and try something else [crosstalk 00:04:37], my life would have turned out in different way.
Jim Hessler: Harvard’s an expensive place to learn those basic life lessons. When we come back from the break, we’ll be talking to Jose Ubeda and Lenora Turner from Expeditors about the “Opportunity Knocks” program and maybe there’s a good alternative that they can show us, how to get into your career and have a good career without a college degree. You’re listening to the Boss Show.
Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on Komo News. The Boss Show continues.
Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the business guy.
Steve Motenko: And I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the psychology guy. You’re listening to the show for anyone who is or has a boss and if you have an idea for a Boss Show workplace topic, we’d love to hear from you, or even if you want to comment on what we’re saying, what we’re not saying on the show, send us an email at or you can use our listener comment line, that number is 206-973-7377.
Jim Hessler: We have in studio with us: Jose Ubeda, the Senior Vice President of Global Air for Expeditors and he’s also the Executive Champion of something called the “Opportunity Knocks” program. We also have Lenora Turner who is the Director of the “Opportunity Knocks” program for Expeditors, and let’s just plow right into it. Lenora, why don’t you tell us what is the “Opportunity Knocks” program?
Lenora Turner: Thank you Jim.
Jim Hessler: Why should we care?
Lenora Turner: Why should you care? What it is at its simplest, it’s really an internship program. A paid internship program for opportunity youth. It really fulfills both talent pipeline goals and social responsibility goals.
Jim Hessler: How do we define “opportunity youth”?
Lenora Turner: Good question. There’s so many terms that come out there and it’s kind of the most common one now. It may mean a young person who doesn’t have the ability to got to college, it could be someone who just simply does not know what they want to do, a good person but may have had less opportunity. Typically they’ve had less opportunity, maybe what’s also called “disconnected”, they’re not in school, they’re not working, they’re kind of lost out there.
Steve Motenko: How do you find them? If they’re lost, how do you find them?
Lenora Turner: Good question and that honestly is funny with the millions they say that are out there, honestly finding them can be the toughest piece. Expeditors is a company that’s kind of invisible. We’re B to B: business to business so we work with 3rd party organizations and also we’re looking for growing partnerships for a broader reach throughout our own network but we do, we work with 3rd party organizations. They’ll provide those candidates that we’ll interview and then offer the opportunity, typically a 6 month internship, it is paid, and to help them gain confidence, gain skills, just enlarge their vision and really help them either gain a long term position at the company if it’s available at the time when they’re complete with their internship, or give them something on their resume they can leverage for their future.
Jim Hessler: Jose, what was your interest in being the Executive Champion for this program? Why did you want to be involved?
Jose Ubeda: I’ve been with the organization now for 33 years and I feel that part of my growth in career was really driven by an “Opportunity Knocks” type of environment.
Jim Hessler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jose Ubeda: Where I came from a similar background where I didn’t really have the direction or understanding what I was going to do as a young man. Fortunately I found an opportunity at Expeditors. The premise for me getting involved was really it’s time for me to give back, it’s time to spend some time and it was being given to a lot of us within the organization, so how do we return that back to opportunity youth out in the US and other parts around the world.
Jim Hessler: You kind of lived this before there was an “Opportunity Knocks”, you kind of lived out this thing about this company seeing something in you that was worthwhile investing in you and you’ve ended up having an executive career with this company.
Jose Ubeda: Exactly. I’m just one of many within the organization that has similar career path of ex-writers where, maybe we didn’t know what we wanted to do, and so as we went through this process it’s really been part of our culture since the beginning.
Lenora Turner: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jose Ubeda: One of our founders, Peter Rose, our first CEO really started from a premise on “we want to create an organization that provided opportunity to anyone who needed it but also have unlimited opportunity for career path in the organization”.
Steve Motenko: When you say you’re one of many, you don’t mean just many Expeditors employees or even managers but you actually mean executives as well, right?
Jose Ubeda: Yeah.
Steve Motenko: A lot of executives have come up from a more humble beginning than one might expect.
Jose Ubeda: Yeah, that’s correct, so out of the 22 executive senior managers within our organization, about half of them do not have a college degree.
Steve Motenko: Wow.
Jose Ubeda: And really have a background similar to mine. In fact our CEO, Jeff Musser, the two of us actually grew up together in the Bay area.
Jim Hessler: I didn’t realize that.
Jose Ubeda: We’ve known each other since we were 7 years old and we had a similar career path. About 50% of our senior team has a similar background.
Steve Motenko: You’ve just burst my Harvard bubble here. I think I’ll try to get over it.
Jim Hessler: Basically, we were saying that a Harvard education is useless and you’ve been proving that to me for years.
Lenora Turner: I don’t think that’s what we’re really trying to say.
Steve Motenko: Now you tell me! Why didn’t you tell me before I went there!
Jim Hessler: We have to take a break here in a minute but when we come back I’d like to know how, you said you used internships as kind of the way in for this. I’ll be curious to hear how this type of internship might be different from a traditional internship, or what other companies are typically doing with internships but we’re talking about the “Opportunity Knocks” program at Expeditors and it’s an interesting topic. Come back and join us. You’re listening to the Boss Show.
Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is the Boss Show on Komo News.
Steve Motenko: Hi, welcome back. I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the psychology guy.
Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the business guy. We have in the studio today with us Lenora Turner the Director of the “Opportunity Knocks” program and Jose Ubeda the Executive Champion of the “Opportunity Knocks” program for a great local company, truth in advertising, they’re a big client of ours and we have a wonderful long term relationship with them and I happen to be a significant admirer of the company that these two represents so it’s nice to have them in here. Lenora, I mentioned, you talked about internships so, how would an internship work? Where do you find these people? What kind of partnerships do you have to fill this pipeline of people that you’re looking for? I assume it’s kind of a win/win really isn’t it? Because you’re serving the community here, but frankly you’re also finding some up and coming young people that might really add value for your company at the same time.
Lenora Turner: Yeah absolutely. All of those things are correct. In fact I’m an advocate for how many ways it does benefit us as well as the individual. We do have these internships, we also have college internships, we have a few international internships, but this is specifically for potentially disconnected youth, opportunity youth, and we find them through a 3rd party organization.
We have worked, like Jose said, with about 22 different organizations throughout the US and even a couple other countries where it’s starting to grow. We have a network, our partnership with 16 locations for the Cristo Rey network of schools. They’re working with as young as high school and that is more primarily more a social responsibility focus, so that program where you’re rotating a day a week with a very young person via the Cristo Rey schools and it helps for them in their prep school for college.
We also work with Year Up, which is a fantastic organization. We have 4 branch locations that are working with them currently and another 4 potentially out of the 12 that were locally near them, they’re in about 16 cities. Again, just 2 that we have a national contract with, but we’ve also worked with communities and schools, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, boys and girls’ club, local schools. Los Angeles branches work with several high schools very successfully. Again, that feeder network is very important at the term that Jose uses, and I think is just a great way to feeds us, we can sometimes help feed back to them, and then the interns themselves, the internships benefit the young person certainly. We’ve had it impact their siblings, we’ve had young people say “my sister was skipping school, now she’s back in”, they’ve seen cousins that have been impacted. We’ve had a young person invited onto his board locally for young people.
Jim Hessler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lenora Turner: We’ve got a scholarship to college where he never intended to go in the first place and he ended up at the University of Washington; actually works there now. We’ve got a lot of great stories from teens that have been homeless when they started, we didn’t always know that, to those that have a more average story, it kind of runs the gamut, but it does. We find that even the employees that have been involved say that they’re; 57% that we surveyed said that they’re more engaged on the job after being involved, than they were before. They’re gaining confidence themselves or gaining communication skills, that type of thing.
Steve Motenko: That brings up the question of retention and turnover one wonders, and we’ve got about 30 seconds. Can you compare the retention and turnover of these interns to [adverists 00:13:52]?
Lenora Turner: We’re just starting to look at that. We realized that have small numbers. We’ve had about 32 offices involved somewhere primarily in the US, but a couple countries, but we’ve seen of initial numbers that it’s as much as 5 times less turnover for the first year. I compared a year to 18 months in the program and we saw a significant less percentage of turnover.
Steve Motenko: Retention figures are also high as a I understand it?
Lenora Turner: Retention again, new numbers. We’ve seen in LA that they’ve had like a 90% retention.
Steve Motenko: Excellent. More with the “Opportunity Knocks” program when we come back. You are listening to the Boss Show.
Voiceover: Komo News. The Boss Show is back on a Northwest lifestyle weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.
Jim Hessler: I am that Jim Hessler and I am as everyone knows, the business guy.
Steve Motenko: I bow down to daily as a result of it. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the less wanted psychology guy and you’re listening to the show for anyone who is or has a boss. If you like what you hear, if you’re interested in workplace dynamics, you might want to go check out our website: You can download tons of old episodes there, you can also subscribe to the podcast there, you can also subscribe to the podcast through your favorite podcast platform like iTunes or Sound Cloud or Stitcher.
Jim Hessler: We have Lenora Turner and Jose Ubeda from Expeditors in the studio today to talk about their program called “Opportunity Knocks” and this is a largely directed what you called “opportunity youth”. I want to make sure we’re clear about something Jose, this is not necessarily something somebody can apply for or send their resume into Expeditors to get into, is that correct?
Jose Ubeda: Yeah, that’s correct. The premise on “Opportunity Knocks” is that we prefer to work with a 3rd party which we really call our network feeder system and why that’s important is because the ecosystem of those youth that are out there could bounce back and forth in between these organizations. The example I’ll give you is that we work with a company here today in Seattle who works with kids who might be homeless, and they’re looking to build their confidence but look for some a foundation of [inaudible 00:16:03] work experience, and we’ve provided a couple of young kids with that opportunity. What they find is that they may have a short internship with us, anywhere from 3-6 months. Once it’s over what did they do next? Well what we could do is then we can turn them over or suggest that they actually work with one of the other network feeder companies that we work with that may provide them a higher level of education, maybe in the IT platform sector.
Jim Hessler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jose Ubeda: Then when they’re done with that, maybe they can come back to us with a full round of experience.
Jim Hessler: So it’s kind of a team approach?
Jose Ubeda: Yeah.
Jim Hessler: Either way?
Jose Ubeda: Yeah and I think those organizations out there who may be interested in doing something similar like “Opportunity Knocks”, it’s critical that you engage with the environment and those companies out there because you really truly do help each other, but you actually help those youth that are looking for work.
Jim Hessler: Yeah.
Steve Motenko: Speaking of that, are you trying to spread the program to other companies? Are you talking it up in networking situations? It just sounds like such a win win as Jim said earlier.
Jose Ubeda: Yeah you know, one of the things that we’ve been able to do is we connect with the organization on the East called Grant of Life.
Lenora Turner: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jose Ubeda: Grand of Life really on the premise, they really try to look for organizations that want to build a similar program and they teach them how to do that. One of the things that Lenora’s been working on which we hope to roll out sometime this year is “Opportunity Knocks” in a box. What we’re trying to accomplish there is that anyone who’s listening today that wants to build a program similar to what we have, we want to help. It’s really a simple toolkit that we’ll provide all the material, all the contact information, how you go about actually putting this in place and implementing it, but also gives you score cards, it’ll give you information how to create a mentorship program within the organization with the premise that you’re going to build this and it’s really simple. It’s one of the things that we’re trying to spread the word today.
Steve Motenko: You’re actually helping other companies be more successful which is great, in addition to helping your interns be successful.
Jose Ubeda: That’s correct.
Lenora Turner: It’s absolutely a win/win. We’re very excited. Down the road we see and we know some companies are hungry to do this. It’s such a hot topic, incredibly relevant. We didn’t even realize how relevant this topic was when the program was founded in 2008 and we just see that there’s going to be incredible opportunity to help other companies do these same things and get some great people potentially out of it.
Jim Hessler: Why do you think it is such a hot topic?
Lenora Turner: Because it’s a big need. There’s a lot of people struggling out there kind of lost and there’s a lot of young people that don’t have those little tiny deposits all through their life that maybe a certain other families or individuals have received, and then all of a sudden when they’re older they’re kind of lost. There’s a lot of need out there.
Steve Motenko: I saw Bernie Sanders recently talking about how college is kind of the new high school, how like you have to have a college degree to survive in this economy and I’m not sure that message is going to work very well for a lot of people.
Jim Hessler: It’s not realistic in part just because of the cost of a college education is out of control and you’re under this huge mound of debt when you step out into the job market. I also find myself thinking as we’re having this conversation about a conversation we had last year with a gentleman who works with people who are coming out of the penal system and just how important it is to get a job and how much maturity and human development occurs by having a regular job, and I think this is an understated portion of what we need to do for people in our society to get them squared up. You’re listening to the Boss Show.
Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on Komo News. The Boss Show continues.
Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy.
Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. We’re talking in studio today with Lenora Turner who’s Director of the “Opportunity Knocks” program at Expeditors which is one of the largest companies headquarter in the world, headquartered in Seattle, and also with Jose Ubeda who is a Senior Vice President for Expeditors and “Executive Champion” of that same “Opportunity Knocks” program. Lenora, give us a success story or two.
Lenora Turner: Gosh and that’s always tough because we’ve had so many different inspiring things happening in different cities around the US and from someone who’s just found a long term job, a long term role to someone who started off homeless and is now on their feet. A quick example and then a little fuller story, we had a gal in LA who has been through 14 foster schools through high school.
Jim Hessler: Oh god, I can’t imagine.
Lenora Turner: I can’t either. I was like “congratulations for even making it through that. Well done.”
Jim Hessler: Really. Alive.
Lenora Turner: The office has helped her get her birth certificate, social security card, and now she’s been there about 7 months doing extremely well and very faithful employee.
Now we also have one I can tell you about that he was really trying to get on his own feet, he was on the East coast, someone recommended he come to the West coast because some of the services, so he’s been extremely diligent to fight for himself to get on his feet. Found an organization that works with homeless youth. They ended up feeding him to us a Jose mentioned, feeder network fed him to us. I had a phone interview with him and went “we’re talking to this guy!” Brought him in with one of our groups, I said “this guy, I think you’re going to really like him.” We had another interview, they were saying “we’re willing to give him that 6 month internship” and he’s continued to grow, he seeks me out to just say “can we meet and talk?” And checks in. He seeks out Jose and he’s just reading, he’s trying to get himself better, get himself better opportunity. Not be a better person, you’re still a valuable human being, I don’t care what’s going on, but your value to the marketplace is impacted by what you feed into yourself and your own choices and it’s “Opportunity Knocks” so he’s dove in.
He’s internships been extended. He’s now got a place of his own. In fact a couple months in to the internship I was talking to him and said “were you actually homeless when you started?” He was like “yes ma’am I was”.
Jim Hessler: Wow.
Lenora Turner: I thought “wow”. Those kind of stories just blow you away. We have amazing employees doing that in different cities around the US and there are so many other stories.
Jim Hessler: In one of the marketing materials I read or summary the program it said something about “purposeful work”. Now clearly the work that you, Lenora and Jose are doing “Opportunity Knocks” program is purposeful work but it sounded like you were talking about purposeful work for these interns. Expeditors is a global logistics company if I’m saying that right [crosstalk 00:22:31], if I’m summarizing that right. How do you instill sense of purpose in these interns in the work that you’re having them do?
Lenora Turner: One thing simple and this has been my mantra lately: every task is important if you understand why you’re doing it and the impact it makes. It doesn’t have to be some amazing thing. Know how it makes a difference for your team, for the customer, for your own reputation. Those things have value so it’s purposeful in that way and then recognizing what they’re capable of: opening up their own sense of potential, their own sense of purpose and better vision. If you just help that vision raise a little bit it can totally change the trajectory of their future. Now for the employee involved, it’s purposeful because it came out of our culture, it did come out of Expediter’s culture and it’s giving back, it’s a way that you can help and make a difference while you’re working, and produce hopefully a very long term successful employee.
Jim Hessler: Companies want to have these polishes gems to hire. Sometimes there’s a higher calling and that’s to hire the diamond in the rough and help them achieve what’s possible for them to achieve in their life.
Steve Motenko: Jose, you made [crosstalk 00:23:42] Lenora Turner, thanks so much for joining us. You’re listening to the Boss Show.
Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is the Boss Show on Komo News.
Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy.
Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. Welcome back to the Boss Show. Jim, I just wanted to mention about the interview we just did. We had a Senior Vice President of a $7 billion company.
Jim Hessler: This is a very high ranking guy that we had in the studio [crosstalk 00:24:08] just now.
Steve Motenko: Yes. Yeah.
Jim Hessler: A corporate titan almost.
Steve Motenko: Yeah.
Jim Hessler: This is a big dude.
Steve Motenko: Right, and a big company. A big global company. During the break, he said a couple of times that he wanted Lenora, our other interviewee, the Director of the “Opportunity Knocks” program that we were talking about to get most of the air time.
Jim Hessler: Yeah.
Steve Motenko: Because he said something to the effect of “she’s the heart and soul of this program” and we were talking about … I just want to praise him for that.
Jim Hessler: Simple enough.
Steve Motenko: Most senior leaders are not humble.
Jim Hessler: He’s obviously not all about himself and all about his ego and it was really a refreshing presence to see somebody at that level operate that way.
Steve Motenko: The Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions, our sound engineer today is Kevin Dodrill.
Jim Hessler: If you missed any of the show you can get it in it’s entirety online at
Steve Motenko: Thank you for listening.
Jim Hessler: And don’t forget! Rule number 6.
Steve Motenko: Rule number 6.

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