Model & Strategy

Propel America believes that America’s education and workforce systems have been failing to support low-income Americans, and it is hurting young people, employers, and our economy alike. Despite progress in national high school graduation and college enrollment rates, college dropout rates are tragically high, with the average dropout burdened by significant debt. At the same time, many employers struggle to find and sustain entry-level talent, especially in mid-skill jobs requiring a postsecondary credential.

Propel believes a better system can exist–one that seamlessly connects education and employment. They do this by bringing together high schools, community colleges, and employers in a unified system of skill-building, job placement, and ongoing planning for young adults. Their model includes a “core course” in or directly after high school, in which students determine their job pathway and begin to prepare for it. Propel then covers the cost of job training, pays a modest stipend, provides mentorship and support, and guarantees a job interview for any “Propel fellow” who successfully completes their training. This process empowers recent high school graduates with the skills, credentials, experiences, and social networks to attain a well-paying job within one year, with opportunities for advancement and higher education.

At a Glance
Founded: 2018
Co-founder and CEO: Paymon Rouhanifard
Education
Location of work: Domestic, Northeast
Propel America
Boston, MA
Aspiring to the day when there is a viable path to prosperity for every high school graduate in America.
Meet Paymon Rouhanifard

Prior to starting Propel America, co-founder and CEO Paymon Rouhanifard spent nearly a decade working in and leading major urban school districts. He worked in the New York City Department of Education, was the Chief Strategy Officer for Newark Public Schools, and most recently served as the Superintendent for Camden City Schools in New Jersey.

It was in Camden where Paymon began thinking more about what he perceived to be a false choice facing his and so many other high school students across the country. Students were either forestalling income and accruing debt toward a traditional degree that many would not complete, or forestalling education to work in low-wage, low-mobility jobs.

He saw top students struggle, many of whom enrolled in college only to de-enroll and work in entry-level retail or service-oriented jobs. Through it all, he saw potential for a way forward. Across his career, Paymon had met employers that spoke of well-paying, hard-to-fill jobs requiring a postsecondary credential with opportunities for advancement. He came to realize there was a “third way” — a postsecondary option that involved both college and an affordable, quicker path to financial stability.

Alongside Louisiana Superintendent John White, Paymon decided to create a system through which more students could access well-paying middle-skill jobs, with many options for post-secondary success.

Prior to his tenure in education, Paymon spent several years in investment banking at Goldman Sachs and AEA Investors. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from UNC Chapel Hill.

Impact

As of January 2020, Propel is working with over 400 students, in 20 high schools, across four states. They have partnered with 13 community colleges & training partners and over 20 employers, through which they will place over 200 fellows into career pathways in healthcare, advanced manufacturing, information technology (IT), and the building trades.

  • RT @NewJerseyDOE: Have you signed up for the virtual #EquityinAction Unconference? On 8/4, we'll be exploring how to strengthen, teach, le…
  • Our young people want to learn, get great jobs, and contribute to their communities. Read about Che'Quai, who becam… https://t.co/00ziIx4sOt
  • Powerful story -- when young people are given routes to reach their career goals and continue their education, we a… https://t.co/fdt4MQakla
  • Two months ago, we published an essay by David McKee, Dean at Camden HS, who was a Propel Bootcamp instructor last… https://t.co/2Q3z1jzXnQ
  • Our CMA pilot Fellows get a virtual career "bootcamp" and CMA training, followed by an externship. Tuition is 100%… https://t.co/N2Hkbjaqkg
  • Meet Damien T.! Damien is a proud Propel Fellow in the Certified Manufacturing pathway at @louisianadeltacc. He is… https://t.co/m1g8qvk9RD
  • RT @gradsoflife: 5 key takeaways from Grads of Life, Senior Director, Rya Conrad-Bradshaw’s @Harvard panel with Matt Delaney of Covalent Ne…
  • Here's what we're offering students interested in becoming CMAs through our virtual pilot this summer. After "bootc… https://t.co/ED3jSToLnI
  • RT @Rouhanifard: Interesting & important piece that prompts the question: if companies were to hire for skills versus degrees, what does th…
  • RT @chiefsforchange: Mildred Otero says equity-minded education leaders are key to advancing racial justice and points to the work of CFC m…
  • RT @d_whitlock: If you know someone who is interested in a career change or starting a career in the medical field, this is a great opportu…
  • We are thrilled to be accepting applications to an online pilot for students to become certified medical assistants… https://t.co/LKV9Hat0Cq
  • RT @Rouhanifard: 4/4 This speaks to the dramatic failure of education-to-employment systems. We need to ensure young adults can affordably…
  • RT @Rouhanifard: 3/4 And these decisions have disproportionately impacted low-income black & brown students who have been pressed into mak…
  • RT @Rouhanifard: 2/4 According to one poll, ~50% of recent HS grads have changed their plans due to Covid-19. https://t.co/YmmTAqpWma
  • RT @Rouhanifard: 1/4 Much attention has been paid to how we start K-12 and higher ed systems in the fall (and rightly so). But lost in the…
  • We are committed to helping young people find a clear path forward. Right now, that involves virtual learning. We j… https://t.co/f691LVWd82
  • With the onset of COVID-19, the way we learn and work has had to adjust. @PropelAmerica is proud to launch a blende… https://t.co/tLRrC8b9Sb
  • Today, we are proud to begin welcoming applications to our blended-learning pilot program for CMA training in NJ an… https://t.co/QnTfZMphjt