Education at Work helps students build resumes and decrease debt

Education at Work (EAW), a nonprofit that provides contact center and staffing services to organizations, is helping students graduate with almost no debt while also developing the skills needed to secure a jobs postgrad. 

“Students are really at the heart and soul of our nonprofit mission. One of our main goals is to be the best employment opportunity for college students,” Scott Blevins, EAW senior vice president of university partnerships and student success, said. 

EAW partners with top tier companies who are also dedicated to eliminating student debt and providing students with flexible work schedules. 

EAW launched its collaboration with Arizona State University in 2016 and since then it has resulted in more than $9 million in wages and tuition assistance for students.  Most recently EAW added a Microsoft partnership to their ASU campus center. 

“They definitely see the value of the mission and want to support a mission like ours. A mission that builds skills and helps reduce student debt,” said EAW Chief Development Officer Tanya Gantzer.

According to EAW, the Microsoft program has the ability to employ 200 ASU students and will create an estimated financial impact of $2.5 million annually in wages and assistance. 

In addition to tuition assistance, students will be making $11 an hour to help Microsoft customers troubleshoot technical support issues and other problems. 

“I think this is such a great opportunity for students to learn about Microsoft, Microsoft products and Microsoft as an organization. This is their opportunity to really showcase their skill set for a number one employer globally,” Blevins said. 

“They see value in this eager, talented group of students. There is value in how the student actually provides excellent customer service to their customers but also they get value from the students giving them feedback about what works and doesn’t work in terms of technology and scripting and ideas that they have,” Gantzer added.

According to Blevins, what makes EAW unique is its flexible scheduling for students as students will only work on average between 18 to 20 hours per week. 

On average we want students to work that nice, sweet spot of about 18 hours per week,” he said. “We never want to have students sacrifice their academic workload for EAW. We’re very cognizant of those student schedules from the very beginning.” 

Gantzer added that the first thing they do after hiring a student is look at their class schedule.

“[We] look at what hours we have available from a client standpoint… and then balance that schedule for a student around times when they’re not in school. That’s really critical, we start where they are with their school schedule and then build a work schedule around it,” Gantzer said.

On top of making a wage, students can earn up to $5,250 per year in tax-free tuition assistance based on their academic and professional performance. 

Forbes Magazine reports that student loan debt in the United States totals $1.56 trillion and the average student owes $28,650. In Arizona the average is $23,967.  Working at EAW creates the potential for ASU students to graduate with half or less debt than the state average.

“At the end of the day, we want our students to experience personal growth, financial freedom and career success. That’s what we hope students get out of EAW,” Gantzer said.

Emily Richardson

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