Posted February 18, 2020 by Mark Perna
Meet the Bronx’s 23-year-old Mohammad Khan—who catapulted from minimum wage to life-changing marketability. Mark’s article, “From Minimum Wage To Marketable Skills: How A Gen-Z Man Beat The Odds,” published at Forbes.com on February 18, 2020.
Today, with over 6 million unfilled jobs—and even bigger talent shortages on the horizon—it’s time to get creative about sourcing unsuspected talent for the modern workforce. That’s why organizations such as Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS) are partnering with major companies to tap into an overlooked labor pool: young adults from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.
WOS, founded in 2005 by Dr. Arthur Langer, is a NYC-based nonprofit that uses a contract internship model to recruit, educate and train high-potential workers, with the goal of long-term employment, while also giving companies the chance to expand and custom-train their workforce—a win for both the companies and the individuals.
One of those individuals is 23-year-old Mohammad Khan, who grew up in the Bronx, New York, and today, is an IT specialist at PSEG in Long Island. Yet Mohammad’s path to career success wasn’t a straight one.
Mohammad attended a high school in the Bronx with just an 18% graduation rate—a virtual nonstarter in launching an educational and career journey. But unlike the majority of his peers, Mohammad beat the odds by not only graduating, but also going on to a community college. Still, after completing his program there, he was hard-pressed to find work commensurate with his degree.
“On my 23rd birthday, I was six months out of college. I was working odd jobs and tutoring part-time for minimum wage,” recalls Mohammad. But things were about to change—big-time. On that very day, he learned that he’d been accepted into WOS’s software development training program in partnership with PSEG. Even now, he marvels: “It was the best birthday gift.”
For many Generation-Z workers, postsecondary training can be an overwhelming obstacle. Oftentimes, they need just a little more laser-focused training, aligned with current industry needs, in order to become employable at a living wage. Work-based learning programs like WOS exist to bridge that gap, as Mohammad attests. “If not for WOS, I would have had to take out at least $30,000 more in student loans for additional computer science or coding education, and that wasn’t something I could have done. This opportunity came up and then everything fell into place.”
Moreover, the technical skills that Mohammed gained through his contract internship weren’t the only benefit. “I learned the technical skills I needed, plus interpersonal skills that completely changed how I was able to work and succeed in a corporate environment. My mentors at WOS also made a big difference in helping me overcome learning challenges and push me to become the best version of myself.”
Now, as an IT Specialist at PSEG, Mohammad works on an IBM mainframe—a job and career pathway that he finds both challenging and rewarding. “Before, I wouldn’t have believed that I would have ever been able to do this, and now my salary has doubled. I am making twice what I was at any other job before this opportunity with WOS and PSEG.”
And while Mohammad’s story is certainly inspiring, it’s only the beginning. “In the Bronx, I just wasn’t exposed to this kind of opportunity or environment. From here, I want to stay at PSEG and progress to management down the line.”These days, Gen-Z is regularly maligned as lazy, entitled and self-absorbed. But that isn’t true. Click To Tweet
These days, Gen-Z is regularly maligned as lazy, entitled and self-absorbed. But that isn’t true. In reality, they are a group of extraordinary young people brimming with untapped potential. And when given the chance, they can—and will—succeed far beyond expectations. Just like Mohammad.