After 3 years of tackling youth unemployment, Generation has 15,000+ graduates—and counting

When asked to name a Generation student who stands out in his mind, Ali Jaffer, Generation’s COO, has a ready answer: “I just met her this past week.”

Tilynn, a student from Generation’s retail-career-advancement program in Jacksonville, Florida, like many Generation learners, joined the program from a difficult background, after cycling through several temporary jobs without feeling like she was building a career.

“She came into our program and did so well and was so motivated,” says Ali, “that she has been hired by the Generation Jacksonville team as a mentor for others.” Even more inspiring is the fact that this isn’t an isolated example—it’s happened with other outstanding Generation students as well.

In the 3 years since McKinsey founded Generation to address the global issue of youth unemployment, the independent nonprofit organization has brought new thinking to the workforce development space, graduating nearly 16,000 students across five countries. Many of these students came to the program with hardships that had disconnected them from the job market in a significant way, ranging from long-term unemployment to homelessness and everything in between.

Generation is now the world’s largest program that trains and places young people in jobs.

According to Generation’s global leader, Mona Mourshed, “Generation is now the world’s largest program, by annual volume, that trains and places young people in jobs.” These jobs currently span twenty professions across four sectors, including healthcare, customer service, technology, and more. Typical roles include certified nurse assistants, customer service representatives, and IT help-desk staff. Most importantly, Generation has developed a methodology and rolled-out a program that has a proven return on investment for both employers and learners—at scale, across a rapidly broadening set of geographies and industries.

In the United States, Generation raised $10 million in grant money in 2017. In Spain, McKinsey received an award from Fundación SERES recognizing Generation’s impact in that country, where the program has helped more than 81 percent of its 1,000 students to find employment within 6 months of graduation. In Mexico, Intel has sponsored hackathons in support of Generation.

“The more we do, the more we realize how much more there is yet to be done,” says Mona. “With every cohort, we try something new so that we continuously evolve our delivery model.”

Generation students in Madrid, Spain are studying digital marketing.

More countries, more programs

After successful rollouts in India, Kenya, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, Generation is poised for geographic expansion in 2018—with confirmed launches planned in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Discussions are also underway at various levels in more than fifteen other countries.

Since this time last year, the number of Generation professions has nearly doubled—to twenty—with another five to ten in the works for 2018. And new partnerships and models are being created as well, with Generation embedding in employers in Mexico and in public-sector institutions in Kenya and India.

Generation’s targeted approach

Generation trains its learners through boot camps that run between 4-12 weeks, depending on the profession. Programs are heavily focused on the most important activities employees engage in and the curriculum is designed to make sure graduates can perform them at the highest level, starting on day one.

According to Lauren Wein, a Chicago-based McKinsey fellow who has been leading Generation’s global curriculum and instruction team since January 2017, “If you look at other programs, they might teach a set of 20 skills you need to do a given job. What we look at are the five breakdown moments that differentiate low from high performers in a specific profession, and we are laser focused on practicing the skills learners need to get them right. This gets integrated into every single week and day of our curriculum.”

In India, students train to become patient-care assistants.

For example, shift change is a “breakdown moment” for certified nurse assistants (CNAs). Doing this well involves technical skills like taking good patient-care notes, and behavioral skills like showing up on time for the shift, making a plan to see all patients before the shift ends, and knowing how to ask for help in case of questions. If CNAs cannot perform all these activities with a high level of proficiency, they will not be successful.

Generation is also rethinking traditional assumptions around predicting a person’s success in a profession, preferring to focus its selection process as much on a person’s innate skills and talents as their educational background. For example, nearly one-third of the students in Generation Spain’s robotics process-automation program have a liberal arts background, challenging the notion that students need a computer science or coding background to be successful at programming robots. “It’s not about the academic background,” says Lauren. “It’s about your ability to show during the selection process that you have the potential to be successful.”

And when it comes to skills, Generation’s curriculum reaches beyond the technical skills required to perform a job. “We also address the behavioral skills and mind-sets necessary to build a career beyond an entry-level role.”

How McKinsey supports Generation

Though Generation is an independent nonprofit organization, McKinsey continues to provide critical support to the program in the form of funding, knowledge, and people.

McKinsey colleagues, like Ali and Lauren, can apply for a Generation fellowship, an experience Lauren calls “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a direct and powerful impact by applying what you learn as a consultant to this important global issue.”

As Generation grows, so do its internal capabilities—something which inspires deep pride in its leadership. “Two years ago, probably 50 percent of the people in Generation were McKinsey employees donated on fellowships,” says Ali. “Now that number is less than 15 percent. McKinsey consultants are able to lead some of the strategy and business-development areas but also give some of those capabilities and skills to many others who are employed directly by Generation.”

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