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Pathways to Success: CareerWise Greater Buffalo

The idea for CareerWise Greater Buffalo is one that came out of three years of extensive research, discussion and collaboration.

“Sometimes making the choice between college and work isn’t truly a choice if you have to go to work to earn money to support yourself and your family,” said David Rust, Chief Executive Officer, Say Yes Buffalo.

In September 2022, partners of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable’s Youth Employment Coalition attended Say Yes Buffalo’s announcement of the launch of CareerWise Greater Buffalo. This initiative of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable (The Roundtable) is one of the strategies designed to provide career pathways for youth ages 16 – 24 that lead to family sustaining incomes.

“The ultimate goal of CareerWise Greater Buffalo is to connect students who need immediate access to the workforce to career pathways,” said Daphne Ross, Senior Director of Postsecondary Success and Communications at Say Yes Buffalo, who is overseeing CareerWise Greater Buffalo.

Those pathways are created through modern youth apprenticeships, in which youth “earn while they learn” at several local employers, all of which are required to go through extensive training that includes The Roundtable’s Racial Equity Impact Analysis.

Say Yes career coaches, who rotate through six Buffalo public high schools, promote the program to seniors in those schools and assist them with applying through CareerWise’s Hiring Hub. From there, students are interviewed by employers representing occupational fields such as IT, financial services and more. During the three-year program, apprentices are trained alongside seasoned professionals doing meaningful, valuable work. All the while, they are still supported by Say Yes through a dedicated success coach who checks in with them regularly to help address any challenges that might come up at work or in their personal lives.

That impact could already be felt by students at the September press conference, when some of them shared their experiences.

“It’s amazing to start your career this young,” said Lillian Beaudoin, a graduate of Math Science Technology High School who is now a technology apprentice at M&T Bank looking to further her career in technology and development.

Trezhon Powell, a graduate of Hutch Tech High School, is a maintenance technician at Tesla, and described his experience as a “…good opportunity to advance myself, develop skills and go further with my education than I ever could before.”

With 25 youth currently participating in the inaugural cohort of CareerWise Greater Buffalo, the goal is to double that number every year until it reaches 600 students a year. That impact will have a ripple effect on the entire community.

“We are filling a gap between a talented workforce from Buffalo Public Schools and some businesses that have not always had the ability to reach those students,” Daphne explained. “It is going to change the makeup of these workplaces to make them more diverse and more inclusive. It will ultimately make our region better.”