A group of nearly 40 students crossed the stage in a graduation ceremony March 9 at Edward Waters College’s Chapel, all with a new set of professional and interpersonal skills to take with them on their career paths. These students, part of local non-profit Generation’s Retail Career Advancement (RCA) program, join a Jacksonville alumni network of more than 400 and a global network of more than 17,000.
Generation’s invited speaker, honored guest, and Jacksonville community activist is Mr. George Maxey, the executive director of New Town Success Zone at Edward Waters College. Maxey was also awarded an honorary alumni certificate.
Graduates in the Retail Career Advancement program complete an intensive 6-week “bootcamp-style” program that integrates technical training along with behavioral and mindset skills, which helps students prepare to overcome both workplace and personal challenges. After completing the program successfully, students often seek job interviews with Generation’s employer partners like Enhanced Resource Centers, a business process outsourcing company, headquartered in Jacksonville.
“Working with Generation has allowed me to find customer service representatives that are driven and compassionate in all that they do. I have also been able to send a few candidates to Generation that need a little more preparation before being employed,” said Odayne Clarke, a recruiter at Enhanced Resource Centers.
Other Generation Jacksonville employer and community partners include Florida Blue, the Magnolia Project, Fatherhood Pride, CareerSource Northeast Florida, Firehouse Subs, Edward Waters College, Job Corps, the Jesse Ball duPont Fund, and the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida.
Kohlenz Previlma, a graduate of Generation’s RCA program and student at Edward Waters College, came to the program to enhance his professional awareness and learn more about the retail industry.
“I have honestly learned a lot about the retail industry throughout the program, but it has also helped me grow in the way I communicate and work with others,” he said.
Jasmine Duncan, another Generation graduate and student at Edward Waters College, said her goals were to learn how to achieve financial freedom and to pass that knowledge on to other women. She is aiming to establish organizations for women to develop leadership skills and be supportive of each other.
“I enjoyed the fact that we weren’t just sitting down the whole time while being lectured. Instead, we actually had a few hands-on activities, and role-playing assignments as well,” she said.
Funded by a grant from Walmart, Generation serves a population of individuals for whom the existing education-to-employment system has not worked. Programs focus on empowering individuals who have faced significant barriers in their lives. To allow Generation students to manage their lives during training and focus on learning, Generation helps provide, if needed, assistance for transportation, access to childcare services, occasional meals, and assistance with other wraparound services.
To ensure a holistic approach to empowering and uplifting students, social support and mentorship is available to all students throughout the course. Generation ensures that graduates continue to have access to support and regular follow-up contact for the first six months of their employment.
Aiming to reach 1200 total students in Jacksonville, the retail career advancement program is 60 hours total and takes place at the Weaver Center for Community Outreach in Jacksonville and includes a flexible, hybrid, in-person/online program. Students engage in networking opportunities and can earn a nationally-recognized certificate from the National Retail Federation.
To date, more than 400 students have graduated from Generation’s two Jacksonville programs – Retail Career Advancement and Information Technology – in the past two years. Together with a range of partners, including a coalition of 60+ local businesses, non-profits, and education providers, Generation’s classes provide accelerated training as IT help desk technicians, customer service representatives, and retail and hospitality professionals.