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by David Williams, CEO & President, Genesys Works
LinkedIn Article: //www.linkedin.com/pulse/we-can-break-cycle-poverty-training-skilling-our-david-williams

I write this after attending the first day of ASU+GSV, the world’s leading education and workforce innovation summit. I am humbled and energized by the caliber of individuals convening to tackle one of society’s greatest challenges: ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to participate in future economic success.  This is something that I am personally invested in as the CEO of Genesys Works, a nonprofit organization helping to unlock the human potential of students from low-income backgrounds through work-based learning.

For much of my 35-year career in the nonprofit world, I worked with organizations to address the unfortunate consequences of poverty, issues like access to food or shelter. It is vital, much-needed work, and I felt like we were making a difference. But, I often wondered: instead of treating the symptoms, how can we end the cycle of poverty and eliminate hunger and homelessness entirely?

Fast forward to January of this year when I began my new role as CEO of Genesys Works, an organization providing motivated high school students from underprivileged backgrounds with job training, year-long paid internships, and college and career counseling.

After meeting with staff, students and corporate partners at our six sites across the country, I know this model is helping address the root of poverty – access to education and economic opportunities – by providing opportunities for young people where there may not have been any before.

Many of our students have never been in a corporate office or explored college options before entering the Genesys Works program. It’s hard to envision a future you may not know even exists.

That exposure to what is possible, along with robust training, is critical to a young person’s chances of future success. One of the reasons our students are so successful is because they engage in professional workplace training before they graduate from high school so they have the skills and confidence to excel after graduation. If we’re seriously going to level the economic playing field and provide better opportunities, we need to do better as a society at matching the workforce supply with the demand.

Our students participate in an 8-week training that teaches them everything from tech skills for IT jobs, to soft skills like office etiquette. They walk through the door of their internships with self-confidence and are ready to contribute in a meaningful way. They’re not making copies or getting coffee – they’re doing meaningful work.

Throughout the school year, our program staff provide college and career counseling. We help our students navigate the sticky web of post-high school options that can be overwhelming, particularly for those who are first-generation college students.

This approach really works. In 2018, we had a 100 percent high school graduation rate and a 94 percent college enrollment rate.1   To date, 70 percent of our alumni have graduated or are still enrolled in college.

Breaking the cycle of poverty requires doing things differently—and doing things earlier. It means exposing young people to what is possible. It means giving them the skills and the opportunities they need to succeed. And, it means providing them the guidance to make college and career decisions. Let’s do it early, instead of treating the symptoms later.

1 //genesysworks.org/model-impact/our-impact/annual-impact-report-7

 

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About Genesys Works

Genesys Works provides pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities through skills training, meaningful work experiences, and impactful relationships. Our program consists of 8 weeks of technical and professional skills training, a paid year-long corporate internship, college and career coaching, and alumni support to and through college.  Our goal is to move more students out of poverty and into professional careers, creating a more productive and diverse workforce in the process.  Since its founding in 2002, Genesys Works has grown to serve nearly 4,000 students annually in Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington’s National Capital Region.   To learn more, visit genesysworks.org.