Meet Cody Brown: Helping Memphis Allies participants enter the workforce
Creating strong community ties is critical when it comes to the work of Memphis Allies and that is just what Vocational Coordinator Cody Brown does. “My job is to do all the behind-the-scenes work, so the life coaches don’t have to,” he says.
After ten years in management and nonprofit ministry, Cody joined the Memphis Allies team in May of this year. He says having a similar background to the young women and men in the program is what led him this type of groundwork.
Cody spends 70% of his time in the community talking to employers, schools and making valuable connections. “It’s really helping them to understand what Memphis Allies is, what we’re trying to accomplish and who the people are that are in our programs,” he says.
A lot of his work involves reframing the mind-set of community members. “The way we do a wraparound approach is a new concept, especially when it comes to the workforce,” Cody says. “I help employers understand the SWITCH model and the work we do.”
Recently, Cody came across an employer who’s opening a business in Memphis and is in need of workers. “She’s trying to staff those roles and probably thinks it’s best for teenagers. So, it became evident that she would probably like to partner with SWITCH Youth,” he says.
Cody says he links the SWITCH Youth team and their leadership with businesses. “I transfer that information and introduce them to each other so they can have that conversation of what their partnership looks like,” Cody says.
When they sit down with me, I like to treat it as a miracle and an incredible decision they’ve made
The other 30% of his time is spent with participants.
Most of the SWITCH Youth and adult participants also have challenges when it comes to securing a job. Most of them have a lack of education and/or have had a criminal background which can become a significant barrier. Cody works to bridge this gap. “I ask employers to take a chance to embrace what we’re doing, and really come alongside as a partner to help us guide the participants in the program,” he says.
Participants also seek Cody’s guidance when it comes to filling out a job application, completing a resume and even something as simple as shaking someone’s hand. “You make eye contact and little things that I had to figure out on my own,” he says. “A lot of these guys don’t have that and so if I can help them, that’s my driving force.”
Due to his own lived experience, Cody had to figure it out on his own without anyone to guide him and he tells participants how difficult this was. It’s a big deal when you ask somebody who is driving the gun violence in our city to decide to do something different. “When they sit down with me, I like to treat it as a miracle and an incredible decision they’ve made,” he says.
Cody says he asks everyone in the community to challenge themselves when it comes to gun violence in our city. “Be open to the idea that potentially outside of the box solutions might be how we fix this, and it may not feel normal,” he says. “But you know, a complicated problem like this might require a complex solution.”