Corporate Partner: PG&E
PG&E leaders recognize the opportunity to lift more high school students out of poverty and into professional careers. Genesys Works interns serve company goals, filling critical workforce needs. PG&E's early partnership has resulted in the training and development of more than 300 Bay Area students to date.
"Genesys Works interns have helped our company and employees as much as we have helped them,” said Jesus Soto, Jr., Senior Vice President of Gas Operations for PG&E. After seeing the financial and social benefits of Genesys Works interns from his work with them in Houston, Jesus championed the launch of Genesys Works in the Bay Area and joined their Board of Directors in 2013. With his leadership, PG&E supported the expansion to California with an investment of $100,000 and internships for five promising students.
Jesus and other PG&E leaders recognized the opportunity to lift more high school students out of poverty and into professional careers, as well as the interns’ ability to fill critical workforce needs at PG&E and build a future employee and customer base. Their early partnership has resulted in the training and development of more than 300 Bay Area students to date, 98% of whom have enrolled in college where they will gain increased earning potential. “I am proud to work for a company that recognizes the value of giving our youth opportunities to thrive,” Jesus said.
A Mutually Rewarding Relationship
This internship model succeeds because of the relationship between PG&E staff, Genesys Works program coordinators and the students. Marianne Cameron, an IT Solutions Engineer, is one of over 40 supervisors who have supported Genesys Works. When she was considering a year-long high school intern, she thought back to her first job and knew she could do better than her early managers to prepare students for their dream careers. Three years later, Marianne has mentored three Genesys Works interns and trained them in disaster recovery planning. She has seen first-hand the immediate business value of these motivated interns (“he does half my job!”), and has also grown with them: “I’m amazed at what I’ve learned from the interns,” she said. “They tend to see things differently than I do. It’s refreshing and eye-opening.” Many PG&E supervisors like Marianne return year after year for the rich mentoring experience and direct benefits to their teams; in a recent survey, 4 out of 5 said that they would recommend Genesys Works to a colleague.
Marianne’s most recent intern is Immanuel Hudson, a senior at Wallenberg High School in San Francisco. On his first day, he was “dressed meticulously, had a tie on, was very polite, and so engaged” according to Marianne.
On the inside, Immanuel felt nervous. A Bayview native, he struggled to envision himself in a corporate environment. He had learned not to take anything for granted while dealing with the death of close friends and family early in high school, and witnessing classmates go down paths he did not want for himself. So he joined Genesys Works. With the support of
Marianne and his Genesys Works Program Coordinators, Olivia and Chelsea, he has blossomed into an impressive young professional who fellow PG&E employees often approach as an expert in his field. “I didn’t know how serious my job would be here,” he said. “Since interning at PG&E, I feel like I can do something positive.”
PG&E has consistently increased their involvement with Genesys Works, from providing five internships in their first year, to 17 in year four. They have hosted a total of 64 interns since 2013, providing meaningful opportunities that enable disadvantaged students to achieve professional success. PG&E was also the first company in the Bay Area to pilot the Genesys Works Alumni Worker Program, which allows college students to continue their workplace learning, and helps companies build a diverse pipeline of employees.
That’s how Larry Mullen, Project Control Manager and Business Information Specialist, met Michelle Villagran, a Berkeley City College student and East Oakland native. After a few months of her internship at PG&E, Larry saw vast potential in Michelle, noticing that she “came ready to work with the appropriate knowledge and background to handle the IT tasks assigned
to her.” He encouraged her to apply for a full-time job, and she did. During the interview process she was up against candidates with years of professional experience. Michelle found confidence in the fact that at 19 years old she already had relevant experience and a taste of professional success. And it paid off. She was hired full-time at PG&E and is pursuing her degree in Business Administration.
Improving the Workplace
The value of the partnership has far surpassed that of traditional internship programs. PG&E staff have had the opportunity to develop professionally through mentoring, and they’ve been able to focus on high-level tasks while interns take on entry-level roles in a cost-effective manner. Genesys Works interns have provided more than 40,000 hours of meaningful work across eight departments in PG&E, all while getting help applying to college, honing their business skills, and broadening their vision of what is possible. By integrating the high school internship program into its business model and providing meaningful workplace experiences, PG&E is helping students break the cycle of poverty and truly building a better future.