Automotive Apprenticeship Program Puts Survivors of Domestic Violence On the Road to Financial Independence

Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support, On the Road Garage, and Capital One are working together to help women escaping abuse find valuable careers.

Survivors of domestic violence are finding new roads to financial independence through a partnership between Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support, On the Road Garage and Capital One.

The goal is to help domestic violence survivors who seek shelter and support at the Dallas-based women’s shelter to experience the life-changing power of valuable skills, financial education and support, and living wage work.

“The biggest physical needs that most of our clients have are housing, transportation assistance, and employment opportunities,” said Melanie Sokolowski, Director of Advocacy for Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support.

“On the Road is a partnership that provides two of those major needs to our clients (transportation and employment).”

On the Road Garage is a unique tech-focused collision repair business with a mission to fill skills gaps in underserved communities and offers a paid internship/apprenticeship that provides training in collision repair, advanced driver assistance systems, and other smart car technologies.

Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support began working with On the Road Companies through its On the Road Lending group, which offers vehicle financing to Genesis clients in need of transportation. “Eleven women from Genesis have secured vehicle loans through us, and the majority have been paid off,” said Michelle Corson, Founder/CEO of On the Road Companies.

“On average, we are able to save our clients $20,000 over the life of their loan, 5-6 years. So, that translates into over $200,000 in savings and wealth for the clients from Genesis.” said Corson.

Now the partnership has grown to include apprenticeship opportunities for Genesis through On the Road Garage.

“We knew it would be a fantastic opportunity,” Sokolowski said.

Linette [Photo courtesy: Sutton Pictures]

Supportive loans, skills, and work

On the Road Companies began with On the Road Lending as a way to empower people by helping them find affordable, reliable cars by providing low-cost loans “based on who they are as people – not their credit scores,” said Corson.

It is continuing to build and expand the apprenticeship pipeline “with a generous catalyst grant from Capital One to hire survivors as apprentices from Genesis,” Corson said.

Apprentices make living wages and have full benefits throughout the program, which can last two to four years, depending on the career track they choose.

The apprenticeship program is registered with the Department of Labor and is fully integrated into On The Road Garage’s repair centers with multiple career pathways.

Master technicians and senior managers lead paid apprenticeships in body repair, painting, estimation, mechanics and technology, and office management.

The program combines hands-on and on-the-job training with state-of-the-art equipment and industry-leading classroom training in advanced vehicle technology.

On the Road also provides supportive wraparound services to apprentices, including low-emitting vehicles and financial coaching. Trauma training is offered to ensure the On the Road staff f are sensitive to the experiences apprentices have gone through and are overcoming, Corson said.

Training that Sokolowski and the Genesis team and clients are grateful for.

“We were able to collaborate with On the Road Garage throughout the application process to ensure that our clients felt supported,” Sokolowski said.

Financial empowerment

Corson says financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases – often through withholding funds and severely damaged credit – and is “a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control over a partner.”

By offering low-cost car loans, financial education, and apprenticeships, survivors can thrive.

Jorge Calderón, Dallas Market President for Capital One and a Board Member for Genesis, says Financial empowerment is a crucial step in helping survivors establish better futures.

Partnering with and investing in small businesses and nonprofits like Genesis and On The Road Companies that are improving financial well-being in communities, is not only part of Capital One’s Impact Initiative, it’s part of its mission to change banking for good.

“These two incredible nonprofits, Genesis and On the Road Lending, are meeting critical community needs and helping close gaps in equity and opportunity,” Calderón said.

A win-win situation

As a member of the Genesis Board, Calderón noted that gaining financial independence and finding a new job can be especially difficult for women who have experienced abuse.

Having programs like the apprenticeship with On the Road Garage and Genesis gives domestic violence survivors an opportunity to learn sought-after skills in the rapidly changing automotive industry, which is experiencing a talent shortage, he said.

It’s a win-win situation for employees and employers.

Calderón said, “They can take their new in-demand skills and apply them to regular employment, achieving an important step on their road to financial independence and in return, the fast-growth automotive industry gains talented, empowered new employees.”

Sokolski agrees, saying the goal is for clients to find safety, shelter, and support to fuel a fulfilling future.

“We hope that this opportunity provides our clients with long-term, gainful employment,” she said.

Unnamed apprentice [Photo courtesy: On The Road Garage]

Closing gaps in equity and opportunity

Corson said that Genesis is one of about 500 nonprofits that refer candidates for the program. Linette, 28, is not affiliated with Genesis and came to On the Road Garage through another nonprofit to train as an automotive painter in the unique hands-on program. She can attest that the apprenticeship is life changing.

“Because of this program, I feel like I’m working towards a career under a company with great vision. I’m excited where my career is going,” Linette said.

The experience has changed her life in more ways than she expected and hope it does the same for survivors of domestic violence.

Corson said, “Our hope is that our program creates smart car technicians that have the confidence, advanced skill set, and on-the-job training to set them apart within the industry to create a rewarding career for themselves.”

Calderón said that with help from Capital One’s Impact Initiative, Genesis and On the Road Lending are meeting crucial community needs while closing gaps in equity and opportunity in North Texas.

“It is through innovative partnerships and a cohesive ecosystem of nonprofits, corporate and civic leaders that together, we can create a stronger community,” he said.

Capital One is a Dallas Innovates Platinum partner. “Automotive Apprenticeship Program Puts Survivors of Domestic Violence on the Road to Financial Independence” was written and edited by Dallas Innovates’ brand studio.

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