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Cristo Rey: Creating a Pipeline of Diverse Talent

by Jessica Palm | Jul 07, 2016

Whether it’s addressing a skills gap, enhancing relationships with the community, raising awareness of your company’s employer brand, building a talent pipeline or a combination of all of the above, we get asked at TeamKC every day on ways our region’s top employers can get engaged in workforce development.

TeamKC partner Ted Koppen, director of the Corporate Work Study Program at Cristo Rey High School, offers insight into this unique model:
 

When hiring, I know that I just can’t change the first 21 years of someone’s life.

We’ve heard it all before. CNBC reported, “Why do millennials get such a bad rap at work?” After reading a Forbes article, “Gimme, gimme, gimme – millennials in the workplace,” the question of whether to hire or pass on a younger worker produced anxiety.

Changing the Landscape
The work study program at the school where I work is changing this stereotype. Cristo Rey Kansas City is creating a diverse pipeline of young workers who are ready to work and ready to learn. Launched in Chicago in 1996, the Cristo Rey model of education exists to open doors to low-income high school students who want to go to college, will commit to a longer school day and year, and are willing to work. Students work one day per week and earn approximately half of the cost of their own education. Cristo Rey Kansas City opened in 2006 and is one of 32 schools in the Cristo Rey Network.

As incoming freshmen, every Cristo Rey student spends three weeks of his/her summer vacation in classes learning vital skills for the workplace. From soft skills to time management, customer service to working as part of a team, students learn that job performance is an essential element of their education.

How It Works
At Cristo Rey, our Corporate Work Study Program operates as an employee leasing agency, training and coaching students, completing all required paperwork, and carrying Workers’ Comp.  

Our corporate partners assign duties, assess performance, and reap the benefits of an eager worker, who can bring remarkable value to the organization. Fearless adopters of technology, students design and update web pages, do internet research, file, scan, set up and clean up for meetings, greet clients and patients, and other vital tasks within an organization. More than one-third hear a language other than English in the home and are capable of assisting non-English speaking customers. The school transports students to and from the work site, provides lunch, and enforces professional dress codes.

2016-17 student pic

Why It Matters
Cristo Rey does change the first work years of our students’ lives. We started this initiative largely for financial reasons and discovered that work study transforms our students. They learn to have bigger, wider dreams. They begin to make the connection that work, work ethic, and opportunity are part of the same continuum. If you stay in school, work hard, you can become anything you desire.

We also hear from our work study partners that generational differences present opportunities for the regular workforce. Our students bring enthusiasm, encouraging a culture of innovation. This allows the existing workforce to leverage their life experiences. Mentoring is a two-way street that produces benefits for the entire community.  

To learn more about ways to partner with Cristo Rey High School, contact Ted Koppen, director of the Corporate Work Study Program. To learn more about TeamKC, contact Jessica Nelson.

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