Silver linings playbook

DU alumni find resilience—and even hope—in the midst of a pandemic

THE CONNECTOR: Anslem Gardner (MBA ’16)

Anslem Gardner found himself in a unique position when the pandemic hit. He was just about to depart his position as a program director at one workforce training program for underserved populations and start a new job at another.

Gardner spent almost three years at Genesys Works in Chicago, a national nonprofit that trains high school seniors for paid internships — that often turn into full-time jobs — at local tech companies. In July, he started a new job as national director of programs at the Chicago outpost of Momentum Advisory Collective, an organization that trains and prepares disconnected youth and those exiting the criminal justice system to enter the workforce, oftentimes in the restaurant industry.

The training at both organizations involves a mix of technical instruction, social and emotional support and professional skills education. The nonprofits worked hard to move trainings online, and most internships have successfully transitioned to work-from-home, Gardner says. At Genesys Works, partnerships with such companies as Apple and Microsoft have ensured that all students have laptops and internet access.

While the pandemic has caused lots of changes in the workplace — including companies closing or laying people off — Gardner is striving to ensure the workforce coming out of Momentum Advisory Collective and Genesys Works is set up for success.

“The business model is a sustainable one in that we work directly with the partner to understand what their immediate needs are and how to train on them very quickly,” he says. “Something I have done at Genesys Works and want to keep doing at Momentum is not just responding to the market or to external factors like coronavirus, but planning for them and understanding how the market and its demand are going to shift and trying to ensure that communities of color aren’t left out again, but can somehow position themselves to be right there in it all.”

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