Summary: The Green Balloon Fellowship sources promising STEM talent directly from high schools and matches them with non-traditional employers. If your company is interested in learning more, complete three questions here.
When Ochsner Health Systems learned of the Green Balloon Fellowship, an earn-while-you-learn talent placement program for recent high school graduates, the value was clear. Entry-level roles at Ochsner, one of the largest healthcare employers in the Southeast U.S., were hard to fill, and keep filled, during the pandemic and their New Orleans hospital was in search of innovative solutions around the country to meet their talent needs. A vacancy on their information services team opened up last summer and they hired a recent high school graduate, Jzayla Sussman, for a remote information services role that would last at least a year through the Green Balloon Fellowship. Jzayla was their first employee hired directly from high school. Stakes were high and you can imagine the nerves on all sides.
One year later, Jzayla is still on the team. “Jzayla has been a shining star of work and attitude with the team,” said Dave Shapiro, Director of IS Customer Services & Network Operations at Ochsner Health. “The customers love her and she supports at a level we see from well-seasoned team members.”
How did we get here and is this a sign of what is to come in the future?
In An Everyone Culture, authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey posit that inspiring workplaces of the future will offer “new income” or new value to employees that extends beyond a competitive salary and benefits package next to their peers. Talented employees of the future will also desire more from their workplaces like a sense of purpose and tangible evidence that their contributions advance their local community and world to a better future state than the present one. Programs like the Green Balloon Fellowship offer this opportunity and pay long-term dividends through employees recruited and retained.
A year ago, my team started a program called the Green Balloon Fellowship that placed recent high school graduates in full-time, entry-level STEM jobs for one year. Fellows with one or more industry-based credentials in STEM fields are accepted to the program, or they have some work experience. Over 2021, our team piloted with seven Fellows from Rooted School high school in New Orleans and companies like Entergy, Ochsner Health, and Lucid to understand how this non-traditional talent pipeline could successfully return value to our employer partners around the country. Facing immense challenges wrought by the pandemic, market volatility, and few blueprints to follow we aimed to keep a majority of Fellows in their roles past 90 days as a sign we might be on to something. A year later, over 80% of Fellows remained in their roles past 90 days and employers like Ochsner Health are continuing their partnership to hire more Green Balloon Fellows over 2022. A year later, we have triple the number of applications and accepted 12 Fellows. From a quants perspective, our approach to sourcing and supporting talent alongside employers is promising.
Hiring from high schools has also created long-term value that could be a glimpse of its potential to radically alter the future of work for companies and communities. Shapiro was raised in Brooklyn to a lower-income family and enjoyed opportunities others didn’t because he is White. This has always weighed on him and to help level the playing field by working with Fellows like Sussman has deepened his commitment to Ochsner as he states, “The fact that Ochsner has enabled me to be part of this program shows their commitment to the communities they serve and to employees like me who get to work on items like this.”
The steady paycheck over the past year has also steadily lifted Jzayla and other Fellows to greater economic and social mobility which has expansive possibilities if scaled as a broader grow-your-own talent strategy. Susmann, like most of the Fellows we accept, experienced some form of financial hardship growing up. She, like most of the Fellows, was drawn to this program because it offered an early chance to gain something her family lacked most of her life: financial freedom. “We’re so tired of living for just another check and I don’t have to do that,” she said. Working at Ochsner Health has doubled her household’s annual income and enabled her to save for her future, possibly for college, or a house. She’s only 19. In the Portland Metro area or Southwest Washington where there’s a $40,000 annual household income gap between the region’s White families compared to Black and Brown families, finding ways to give youth earlier opportunities in life to lift themselves on the economic ladder creates communities where all members can access a higher quality of life.
What could the future of our community look like if we let that vision take shape?
Green Balloon Fellowship Open Now. Apply now to host a fellow:
We are in a new environment where employers have access to a broad range of talent, not just those from traditional pedigrees. Let’s remove any pre-existing barriers to employment in our community and build a sustainable talent pipeline that’s future-proof: young adults living next door.
Rooted School is widely recognized as one of the most innovative public school models in the U.S. Its vision is to rapidly close America’s inequality gap by providing its high school graduates with a college acceptance in one hand, and a job in the other. Rooted Schools are in New Orleans, Indianapolis, Vancouver, Washington and proposed in Clark County, Nevada. Graduates attend colleges such as Tulane, Villanova and Case Western, and work at Fortune 500 companies including Entergy, Ochsner and Lucid.