The goal of Career Accelerator is to address a twofold problem:
- Students are not prepared to successfully enter and persist in the workforce upon graduation from high school, and
- Employers are struggling to identify and hire highly skilled, entry-level talent
We know from our school and district partners that current high school curricula does not meet Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for career readiness instruction. We have also heard directly from employers that they are experiencing a serious lack of qualified and career-ready applicants for high-demand roles, and that they expect that trend to continue for some time.
There are millions of young people across America between the ages of 16 and 24 years old neither in school nor working. The Aspen Institute estimates there are 4.6 million “opportunity youth” currently disconnected from school or work, representing 1 in 9 members of this age group in the U.S. According to Measure of America, 14% of Harris County (Houston, TX) and 10.6% of Ft. Bend County (a suburb of Houston) is disconnected. Those youth are disproportionately young people of color and from underserved communities. We believe that our pilot program, the Career Accelerator, will solve for both these problems while helping youth at risk of disconnecting after high school to get started on the path to a rewarding and economically sustainable career.
The Career Accelerator is a two-pronged approach: in-school employability skills training, and a pre-apprenticeship program creating an on-ramp for future employment. Genesys Works will help deliver employability skills instruction to high school students through its Career and Technical Education curriculum. After those students graduate high school, many will continue in the Career Accelerator pre-apprenticeship program and receive skills training and an industry-recognized credential. Those young adults will then be placed in an entry-level position with one of our corporate partners, where they will continue to receive support from our staff for six to nine months to ensure persistence in their new role.
In the first operational phase, we have implemented a teach-the-teacher model to embed our employability skills training into Career and Technical Education (CTE) programming in Ft. Bend ISD. The second component of the program, the Pre-Apprenticeship, we will train young adults immediately following high school in high-demand IT skills, with the intent that they gain an industry-recognized credential and join the workforce within four to six months of high school graduation.
In the pilot phase, we planned to serve Genesys Works alumni who had recently stopped out of college, as well as high school graduates who applied to the Genesys Works high school program but who were unable to participate based on eligibility factors. We started with 16 participants who began training in October 2021 and who are finishing and sitting the for A+ certification exam now, in early March. Our second cohort will begin in Q2 of 2022.
We are building relationships with partners in the IT industry to provide a direct pipeline of trained young adults into the high-demand sector of IT. We’ve established a partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission and recently received a $75,000 award to help cover training costs through the TWC and U.S. Department of Labor. Also, Career Accelerator was recently approved so that GW Houston is on the Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) for Texas which increases the possibility of additional contributed income from the state.
The Career Accelerator program aims to create career pathways to the IT and IT-related industries due to the high demand for workers in that field. The companies we are partnering with are committed to the professional development, upskilling, and pathways to career advancement for their employees, and have identified skills gaps that we will fill with our well-trained young professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are projected to add about 531,200 new jobs. Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.”
Additionally, the Gulf Coast Workforce Board projects that by 2026 in Texas, there will be approximately 18% more jobs in “Computer Systems Design and Related Services,” which includes the IT industry. The Career Accelerator program partners with CompTIA to provide technical training with the goal of the acquisition of an A+ certification and focuses on jobs such as: Service Desk Analyst, Help Desk Tech, Technical Support Specialist, Field Service Technician, Associate Network Engineer, Desktop Support Administrator, and End User Computing Technician. We plan to work with young adults, recently graduated from high school, who fall into the same demographic category as our current core program offering, which in 2020 was 51% female, 49% male, 67% Hispanic, 22% African American, 8% Asian,1% Anglo, and 2% multiracial or other ethnicity.
We anticipate that the program participants will enter the program with minimal to moderate technical skills directly related to the targeted industry, based on their high school endorsement path. We feel that in the current climate, with ever-increasing numbers of youth of color lacking access to resources and facing disproportionate financial and other barriers to postsecondary enrollment, a program like Career Accelerator could open viable pathways that allow them to postpone or forego two-year or four-year college while still achieving success in a living-wage career.
Essentially, our Career Accelerator program will open pathways to opportunity through skills training and credentialing for young adults lacking access to resources while filling a gap and meeting the needs of the current corporate workforce.