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Here is the full text of the interview I had with Moe.
Hero Story: Please provide a brief background for those who don’t know about you or GenM.
Moe Abbas: GenM is an education platform that provides coursework, hands-on work experience, and certifications at zero-cost. Once our students match with a business mentor, the expectation is that they will complete 10 hours of remote work per week, making it accessible to even to those who work full-time. The key innovation in our platform are these remote digital apprenticeships, where students work with business mentors over a 3-month period. This part of their training provides them with the work experience needed to be competitive as they enter the workforce. Businesses pay a 49$ month membership fee to access our marketplace tools and support team. Throughout the 3-month period, students get feedback and guidance from the businesses, and the businesses get an extra hand in their growth. It’s a win-win for both parties.
My job at GenM is focused on building our team to achieve our mission of creating a free education system for everyone.
HS: Where did you come up with the concept of GenM? What problem are you trying to solve?
MA: The concept for GenM originated from my own struggles as a small business owner. Due to financial constraints, I would hire student volunteers to help me grow, and ended up employing many of them permanently. These were students who were struggling to find jobs because they lacked relevant work experience. Through the experience of working with me and my businesses, they became hireable and were able to launch their careers. For over 5 years, I thought nothing of this, working with more and more students who followed this same pattern.
Eventually, I decided to switch out of construction and into the tech industry. drawn to infinite possibilities that you can design and build through technology. In support of the project, we started looking to hire a marketing intern. Through this hiring process, we saw a pattern – hundreds of applicants for one internship position, almost all of whom had no work experience.
My co-founder, Richard Shaw saw this as a problem and started thinking about the issue. Why was there such a high demand for work experience from students? This was a thought experiment turned into months of research into the education system, and ultimately, the realization that the system is fundamentally broken for millions of students.
Post-secondary education has become costly in time and money and is becoming increasingly ineffective in helping students launch their careers. With an understanding of the realities for both students and businesses, we started imagining a future with a transformed education system, derived from first principles.
This leads us down a path that would forever change our lives and the lives of thousands of students and business owners. We imagined a world where students would be trained by industry for industry, faster than traditional schooling at zero-cost. In our world, education is free, accessible, and directly translates to jobs. At this start, this sounded like a fantasy, and thinking back it was a really big ambition. At the time we had no real product-market fit in our social media app but had a lot of experience launching products together. We decided to drop the app to focus on building an education company. We knew it would take years to build anything remotely close to what we imagined so we created a multi-phase plan in achieving our mission. For Richard and myself, this is important enough to dedicate our lives too. Initially, GenM started with free coursework, later expanding to offer apprenticeships and certifications. Now we are developing a full suite of collaboration tools to better support effective collaboration between businesses and students. We are at the base of a very big mountain, with a mission that will make a positive impact on the lives of millions. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
HS: What does success look like for GenM? What about failure?
MA: As one of the fastest growing start-ups in Canada, our goal is to create a zero-cost education system accessible to everyone that directly leads to jobs. We want to be the place students come to launch their careers and businesses come to grow.
In our future, students will be able to use GenM’s platform to test career paths. They will be able to explore their interests without committing to a costly 4-year program. We believe this will significantly reduce the financial and time burdens associated with education, by affording students a greater degree of certainty about the type of career they want. In our future, students will receive on the job training from skilled businesses, enabling them to build their resumes, gain work experience, develop a professional network, and acquire confidence in their skill set. Students will have access to coursework from top providers that will enable them to learn anything they want before, during and after their on-the-job training. They will be able to utilize their platform profiles as portfolios to showcase their work. Our goal is to help students be head-hunted by employers looking for talent directly through our platform. We hope that in the future, students will be able to meet with a cohort of other students at physical locations around the globe, and attend a yearly conference-type event held by GenM. Success for our students means they gained either employment, confidence, or relationships that positively impacted their lives. Our students will be able to launch their careers, with no debt, faster, and more effectively than they can today.
In our future, a small business owner will be able to get the affordable talent they need to grow. We will become part of the daily workflow of businesses by supplying both tools and talent to help them. Businesses will be able to work with one or a team of students using the collaboration tools we build. Through the implementation of continuous student rating and review mechanisms, GenM will make it possible for businesses to have an accurate measure of the performance of a candidate before they hire them. Once trained, students can get hired by businesses who are looking for trained talent, meeting workforce labour demands.
Success means that our students gain employment, confidence, and relationships that positively impacted their lives. Success means that students are launching their careers faster, cheaper, and more effectively.
HS: How many students have gone through your program? How many businesses and organizations participate?
MA: We have trained more than 20,000 students, and have onboarded more than 8000 businesses.
HS: Do you have plans to offer other subjects in the near future?
MA: Of course! Moving forward, we plan to offer education in any subject which permits a knowledge transfer between the skilled industry professionals and apprentices.
HS: What do you think could be improved in education today? (A loaded question…I know)
MA: Let’s start with the outcomes. Currently, traditional post-secondary institutions are not incentivized to get their graduates hired – creating somewhat bleak job prospects for those entering these institutions. On top of that, this type of education takes a long time, costs a lot of money, and is not accessible to everyone.
Every student needs an accessible, barrier-free education option that gets them into the job market, with all the coursework and skills they need to be effective in their field. Students need a streamlined approach to education that removes filler coursework with no relevance to their career aspirations.
The traditional education system is plagued by inequities and inefficiencies. Walk around any college campus and you will see no end of wasted resources and senseless spending. Did you know that athletic coaching staff is paid more than teaching staff at many post-secondary institutions? The cost of this injustice is passed on to students.
Equally important is financial accessibility and feasibility. For many people, attending traditional schools just isn’t an option. They may have a family, financial limitations, or life circumstances that remove “mainstream” education as an option.
That’s where GenM comes in, offering flexible, no-cost training that focuses on the concrete theoretical and practical skills students need to launch into career prosperity.
HS: What are students and businesses saying? What kind of feedback (good and bad) have you received?
MA: I want to first say that at GenM, we change lives every day, and I mean that sincerely. Each day we are rewarded with feedback from both our students and business clients, reminding us that we are becoming an integral part of the transformation of education.
To provide a sample of the success of our program, here are just a few of the testimonials we’ve received:
“Since coming aboard GenM’s apprenticeship program, I have been able to work with a total of 5 businesses (directly and indirectly) within 90 days and I had offers for continued employment from 2 of them. I have gone on to get additional jobs through referrals from that I held apprenticeships with. In these positions, I received a full price scale for my services plus retainers.” – Student
“I’ve been asked by one of my GenM Mentors to take on the full management of their business for six months while they are away. I couldn’t recommend GenM more. Their system of instruction is so rich and thorough. GenM dramatically reduced the learning curve for me. It is the go-to company for anyone who wants to crush it in the digital marketing space. I can’t recommend them highly enough” – Student
“Through GenM I hit the Lotto with my apprentice!” -Business Member
“I totally loved working with my GenM Apprentice and really liked the programme. I can’t wait to share your service with my network” -Business Member
“Our Company Loves GenM, it completely changed the way we run our business” -Business Member
HS: GenM is undertaking quite an endeavor here. What’s one piece of advice you can offer people trying to tackle a tough issue like education?
MA: Work from the ground up, focusing on what is possible today, and building on that each day.
HS: What’s one quote that sums up who you are?
MA: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
HS: Where can people contact you to learn more about GenM and your other work?
MA: People can learn more about GenM and our work at www.genm.co. People can also follow me on Instagram @realmoeabbas to see live streams of our offices and the work we do.
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