The Genesys of a career

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Louisa Akoto, Coon Rapids High School
Sher Eh Ler Tee, Roseville Area High School

Twin Cities nonprofit Genesys Works provides training, internships to students 

A TWIN CITIES PROGRAM is providing a boost for economically-challenged students looking to get a kickstart in the changing job market.

For seven years, Twin Cities nonprofit Genesys Works has given students real-world training in marketing, business and IT careers with the goal of supplying trained workers for companies in the metro area.

“For many of our students, this is their first job experience,” said Joe Cudzilo, Genesys Works’ marketing and communications manager.

The program is competitive, with 900 students applying and 250 accepted this year in the Twin Cities. Those students enter an intense eight-week training program that prepares them for the possibility of a year-long internship.

Nimo Mohamed, a senior at Al-Amal High School in Fridley and a student in the program, was looking for experience in the professional workplace. So far this summer, she has worked with Excel spreadsheets and transferred data – things she had never done before.

“It should be a requirement” for students, Mohamed said of her experience with Genesys Works.

Genesys Works has programs in the San Francisco Bay area, Houston and Chicago, and another opening soon in Washington, D.C. It expanded to the Twin Cities in 2008. Over the years, Genesys Works has collaborated with more than 50 partners in the metro, such as Target, U.S. Bank, General Mills and 3M Corporation.

“We have a lot of support from the corporate community,” Cudzilo said. “They see Genesys Works as a pipeline for students who come from diverse backgrounds and who are the next generation of professionals in Minnesota.”

During the eight-week training session, students are taught high-level skills and simple techniques, such as professional dressing and correct handshakes. Then, they practice with face-to-face interviews. On the last day of training, they find out if they landed an internship.

“We had maybe around 155 students in internships” last year, said Cudzilo.

Nationally, more than 800 Genesys Works students are working in internships. The nonprofit also boasts other impressive numbers: 96 percent of its students have enrolled in college and 79 percent have graduated. In the Twin Cities, 93 percent of its students in 2014 enrolled in college in the fall, and 79 percent are either still enrolled or have earned a degree, according to Genesys Works’ 2014 annual report.

A quiet teen, Mohamed was a bundle of nerves when she first arrived at Genesys Works. But near the end of her training, she was transformed.

“They taught me to be enthusiastic and have a positive vibe, take initiative and have a good attitude,” she said.

Gaining confidence wasn’t easy for Mohamed. Every morning, the team of Genesys Works students gave presentations in front of the class. These training sessions helped her open up and improve her communications skills.

The highlight of Mohamed’s training was her first time giving a technical presentation in front of guests.

“I can go in and give a presentation to people without having that fear or not knowing what to talk about,” said Mohamed, who wants to be a nurse. “Genesys Works helped me boost my confidence.”

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