Peerro is the pipeline between high school and gainful employment

When Rachel Angel was just 16 years old, she struck out on her own.

Her dad lived in Buffalo and her mom was in North Carolina. Neither could provide the stability Angel needed, so she moved into what she describes as a comfortable home in the suburbs of Cleveland.

Despite the challenges, Angel graduated from high school and college, and used her drive to become a pharmacist.

“I don’t know why I had the foresight to ask questions,” she says. “I went to a pharmacist when I was 16 — I was still living on my own — I asked what I needed to do to become you, basically.”

Angel was told that she could work in a pharmacy as an intern or technician, so that’s what she did when she turned 18.

“The only reason I went to school was because I was very clear about my opportunity,” she says. “I would not have went to pharmacy school — actually I went to Hampton University and I had never even visited the school — I didn’t even know what the school was the day before I applied to it.”

“The only reason I applied is because they had a six-year program that I could go and become a pharmacist in six years instead of eight,” she continues, noting that shaving two years off the degree saved about $200,000.

However, after years in the pharmaceutical field, Angel felt the need to help other kids strike out on their own the way she did. So she put her career on hold and started Peerro, an app designed to help kids like her — without her resources — find their footing in the workforce.

She calls it a Career Pathway Management System, which roughly translates into a partnership between employers, schools, training organizations, governments, and nonprofits, all in one platform.

This platform allows high school and college students to access local job and training opportunities, along with position details and a guaranteed interview.

According to Angel, Peerro stands out because it uses specialized questions to cater to students’ needs. Want a Lamborghini? Here’s how much you have to make and what you need to learn to accomplish that goal.

Before getting connected with job opportunities, Peerro interviews students and asks them about their life goals, and then breaks them down into manageable achievements. The app doesn’t just place people in entry-level jobs — the goal is to put students in a career that will provide both growth and promotion based on their skills.

“You’ve heard people say, ‘Don’t go to work, go to school,’” she says. But, as she goes on to explain, this leaves young adults unprepared for the workforce.

“The issues and challenges exasperated by COVID … we talk about these skills, and the fact that adults who are coming into employment don’t have certain basic skills that they should have has a lot to do with this transition of young adults not getting involved in the workforce.

Angel hopes to rectify these problems by connecting high school students with jobs that will teach them valuable skills for future careers.

“What we’re talking about with Peerro is that, one, we’ve got to somehow expose you to opportunity today, we have to get you into employment today, and not only do we do that, we have to communicate, ‘If I go into DHL, I start here and work [towards] my goal.’”

People want to work for companies that show a clear path to career progression.

“If I’m in your company and I don’t know what I’m working towards or if there’s an opportunity for me to grow, then I’m already at a disadvantage in the organization,” she says, “and I’m already thinking, ‘If it’s not here, then where?’”

Employers need to make sure that employees have a clear future of advancement ahead of them.

“What I’ve seen is shifting, especially with employers … is that they almost look at youth as a philanthropic thing, as opposed to a business case,” Angel says. “What we will see is a consistent decline of youth participation in the workforce and it will continue with individuals who are 21, 22 years old.”

This was the driving force behind Peerro. Angel wanted to build the technology to help people grow into successful careers.

“I know a lot of African Americans feel this way, but you see your cousins and they haven’t gotten to where you are, and you see them struggling years down the line and you’re like, ‘Why me? Why would I get to be somebody when a lot of my family isn’t where they should be?’ So you almost have survivor’s guilt,” she says.

To help answer these questions, she volunteered at a school for about two years to gain an understanding of why people struggle to get into the workforce and move up within their careers.

What she learned was that most kids have no idea about how money works — how much it takes to support yourself and how to take a dream and make it into a reality.

That’s when she decided that she wanted to create the technology that both schools and employers could plug into, and that students — especially those not attending college — could utilize to find a job with a successful career trajectory.

This also allows companies and schools to collaborate on what students need to know for specific employment opportunities, which helps teachers prepare kids for certain careers before graduation.

Through the app, students can figure out what they want to do and what they have to do to get there, which eliminates job hopping. Angel uses the example of someone who wants to be a sales rep at Kroger. They might have to start out as a cashier but they won’t leave for a slightly better paying job because they know that a promotion is on the horizon.

“The most important thing isn’t money,” Angel says. “It’s ‘Is there meaning and can I progress myself?’”
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Read more articles by Jessica Esemplare.

Jessica Esemplare is the managing editor of Soapbox Cincinnati and a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Shortly after completing her degree in magazine journalism, she began covering local and regional topics at The Cincinnati Herald and, later, as an editor at Ohio Magazine. Her writing has also been featured in U.S. News and World Report.