One organization finds its expansion hopes tied tightly to the fortunes of the business world.
Genesys Works, in Houston, provides high-school juniors from needy families with computer-technology training, then places them in high-tech professional jobs their senior year. The intent, says the organization, is to place students in corporate jobs to give them the skills, confidence, and ambition to pursue college and a professional career.
Rafael Alvarez founded Genesys Works in 2002 with 10 students in a pilot program. It expanded to St. Paul in 2008 and plans to open a Chicago program as early as next year. (President Obama singled out Genesys Works in a speech in June promoting his new Office of Social Innovation.)
The St. Paul program helped to test Genesys Works far away from Houston to show that it could duplicate itself independent of its founder, Mr. Alvarez says.
In choosing new locations, Genesys Works looks for cities with headquarters of very large corporations to supply potential jobs and supportive school systems.
Genesys Works Chicago is proceeding well, says Scott Pharr, chairman of Genesys Works's national expansion committee and executive partner with Accenture, the global management-consulting firm, which has long supported the charity. The committee is looking at former Accenture partners to become the first executive director of the Chicago affiliate; once that selection is made, Mr. Pharr says, fund raising can begin. (The organization also has an offer for free office space, though the contract isn't yet signed, according to Mr. Alvarez.)
"We are making introductions into our client base in Chicago as well, which will be key to getting jobs in place for the students," Mr. Pharr says. Accenture is planning to help Genesys Works take the program across the United States, allowing its workers to give pro bono help to the charity and conducting free feasibility studies. The next cities on the list for such studies are New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
Most of the group's money comes from corporate contracts. In Houston, Mr. Alvarez says, such contracts cover 83 percent of the group's $2.5-million budget. The charity bills companies $18 to $22 an hour for labor; a portion pays student salaries, while another portion supports the program. For large companies, those rates are less expensive than the rates many for-profit contractors charge, he says.
The recession has only accelerated the organization's expansion plans, Mr. Alvarez says. In 2010, he believes, the economy will rebound. Companies will start expanding by hiring contract labor instead of full-time workers, he says. Already this year, he says, the charity's earned income is up 58 percent over last year.
"Contract companies go up faster in a recovery," he says. "This is the perfect time for us to be expanding."