July Virtual Lunch: An Update from The DirectEmployers Institute

Simone Murray, Founder and Executive Director of The DirectEmployers Institute, was the speaker at our July 2nd Virtual Lunch Series. The Institute was one of our 2017 Change Maker Finalists. The Institute’s mission is to provide programs for underserved and underexposed students in Indiana Grades 8-12 to provide hands-on experience to support STEM career exploration and preparation during school hours, as an after-school program, and during summer months.

Simone Murray, Founder and Executive Director, The DirectEmployers Institute

Simone reported that the second quarter of 2020 has been a difficult time for the Institute: (1) COVID-19 has disrupted many of the key elements of their programs: and (2) the George Floyd murder has caused pain to her, as a Black woman, and to many of the students served by the Institute. The Institute’s work is to diversify the work force, but they let the Institute’s students know their journey to a successful career is not the same as for others, but the goal is achievable. The times define how a nonprofit accomplishes their goals. It’s important to stay relevant. For example, the Institute pivoted in response to COVID-19 by focusing on its STEM Yes! Program to offer on-line interaction in place of in-person training.

The Institute’s supporters, including Impact 100, continue to make an investment in the lives of these young people to improve our society. But it’s important to note that COVID-19 has also affected the amount of donations for the Institute.

Now that society is focusing on diversity, the Institute encourages employers to look at talent early on – such as 9th grade. Employers are encouraged to look to the future by embracing the culture of these employees, not just add an employee. Simone addressed how the Institute prepares students to be the “only” BIPOC person in the room (BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, Person of Color). The Institute focuses on employability skills – communication, workplace awareness, and “likability”.

In the Q&A portion of her remarks, Simone stated that IPS did a good job of providing internet accessibility. However, in southern Indiana, only 23% of the Charlestown school students had access. And she explained that students are referred to the Institute’s programs from a variety of sources, including school administrators and the Center for Leadership Development.

Simone expressed her gratitude for the 2017 grant and for Impact 100’s support. The Impact 100 2017 grant was used to expand their workforce simulation within Marion County. The workforce simulation must now be a virtual program. She is looking forward to renewing her Impact 100 membership.

Impact 100 members who are interested in supporting The DirectEmployers Institute may make a donation (www.directemployersfoundation.org) or volunteer to assist in their programs. To volunteer, contact Simone directly at simone@directemployersinstitute.org.