The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many long-standing community issues, ranging from racial and financial inequalities to gaps in workforce development.
To address these disparities, Capital One recently committed $ 3.5 million to 12 organizations nationwide that fill the equity and opportunity gap, including nonprofits Merit America and Year Up. Each nonprofit will receive $ 250,000 in resilience grants to help those disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Merit America will use the funds received to expand an initiative to meet post-pandemic workforce needs. Year Up offered its students a program to overcome obstacles to transport for internships, in addition to developing some of its virtual workforce development models, adapting to the post-pandemic climate.
The grants build on Capital One’s Impact Initiative, an initial commitment of $ 200 million over five years to support growth in underserved communities and advance socio-economic mobility by bridging equity gaps and of opportunities.
“We are deeply invested in organizations that strengthen the resilience of our communities,” said Sanjiv Yajnik, president of financial services at Capital One. “Merit America and Year Up are filling critical workforce development gaps that will positively impact the future of our region for years to come, and we are proud to support their work. “
As a national 501 (c) (3) workforce development organization, Year Up is committed to ensuring equitable access to economic opportunities, education and justice for all young adults. , regardless of their background, income or zip code.
“We are fulfilling our mission through the market to ensure that we prepare our young adults for roles currently sought after locally,” explains site manager Rose Chivers.
Chivers says receiving the Resilience Grant allows Year Up to continue providing high-quality support and resources to students and alumni to fill these in-demand roles in Dallas. From digital learning tools and experiences to building strategic community partnerships to remove barriers to transportation, the organization will pilot adaptations of its original program model to benefit more young adults and communities, thereby helping individuals. to enter the labor market much more quickly. The goal is to ensure that these individuals and their families are on the path to generational success.
Year Up is implementing solutions to close the workforce development gap, and the grant enables the organization to amplify its current focus on vocational training in five key areas: business operations, operations finance, information technology, sales and customer support, and software development. In addition to technical skills, young adults learn to apply soft skills and build relationships to help them develop their networks and stand out as they progress through corporate spaces.
“We are planning our training to align with the entry level intermediate skill roles to prepare our young adults for these positions and for earning a salary to support the family,” said Chivers. “This provides long-term economic mobility for our young adults and allows us to continue to meet the growing demand for the job market in North Texas.”
Year Up is also working to bridge the opportunity gap, which affects one in nine young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 across the country who are neither in school nor at work. Over 90% of people Year Up serves identify as people of color, who have historically been barred from accessing opportunities due to generations of systemic racism and inequities found in schools, workplaces and the communities.
“As we go through the twin crisis of a global pandemic and generations of racial injustice, inaction is not an option,” Chivers said. “We must recognize the Divide and implement solutions to close it. In [doing so], we will contribute to a more just society and to the economic health of our nation.
Another critical need observed during the pandemic was to support those who needed transportation. Through Year Up’s partnership with Lyft, young adults received commute credits to help improve access to employment – for example, an intern whose car was being repaired could use credits to drive to a in-person internship, or an alumnus could use credits to travel for a job interview. Transportation credits were also provided for holistic needs, such as going to the grocery store or to medical appointments.
While Year Up had experimented with online materials and instructions before the pandemic, Chivers says the full transition to virtual learning has yielded positive revelations. Digital learning experiences have also become training opportunities for students to navigate online workplaces, from attending virtual meetings to managing remote assignments. Going forward, Year Up incorporates hybrid programs in select markets, as well as virtual model testing to provide greater flexibility.
“With the continued support of Capital One, Year Up Dallas / Fort Worth will strive to bridge the opportunity gap and remove barriers such as transportation and technology to ensure Opportunity youth have a chance to reach their full potential. “Said Chivers.
Using a fully virtual learning model, Merit America offers a path to skilled careers in IT support, Java development, technology sales, and data analytics for adults without a degree, which commercial director Leila says Makarechi, remain more in demand than ever. Funding from the Resilience Grant is helping Merit America expand its training programs, meeting more workforce needs in the local community while helping to fill existing workforce gaps.
“Employers are starting to look beyond college degrees as the sole indicator of skills in order to find the talent they need and meet new commitments to diversify their workforce,” said Makarechi. “As we diversify our learning pathways, this allows us to equip an increasing number of learners to succeed in the mid-skill labor market. “
Merit America leverages labor market data to understand the specific skills required for skilled roles and teaches those skills through blended learning programs. Before the pandemic, part-time programs included asynchronous learning with weekly deadlines, live learning with a coach and peer support, and cohort-wide engagement events and opportunities. Offers eventually shifted to virtual learning, but Makarechi says learner outcomes have not been significantly affected – Merit America has maintained a graduation rate of 80% or more and an average salary gain of $ 15,000 per first year. Learner satisfaction also remained high despite the lack of in-person programs.
“These changes also allowed us to begin national enrollment for our cohorts and to date we have served hundreds of learners outside of our core markets,” says Makarechi.
By receiving the Resilience Grant from Capital One, Makarechi says Merit America will be able to generate approximately $ 855,000 in short-term wages in Dallas.
“This grant [will] Uniquely unlocking our ability to test the impact of community-based co-working and in-person support in the Dallas area, helping to identify the right mix of virtual and in-person touchpoints to lead to success learners, ”said Makarechi.
While the move to virtual learning has helped the organization grow nationwide and reduce operating costs, Makarechi is looking forward to increasing the opportunities in person – mock interview events, empowerment events. community, meet and greet with employers, matchmaking and more – in places like Dallas, where there is an abundance of Merit America learners.
“This investment will not only increase the impact of our work with learners in the Dallas area, but potentially serve as a repeatable model to accelerate Merit America’s mission across the country.
Visit https://www.capitalone.com/about/newsroom/3.5-million-in-grant-funding/ to learn more about Capital One’s Impact Initiative.