Approach

Merit America

We provided the first funding to Merit America and have since supported its launch in New York City. Our catalytic grant led to Google creating a $100MM fund for three job placement programs, one of which is Merit America.

Merit America provides a path to skilled careers for those without bachelor’s degrees. The initiative offers deeper learning for underrepresented minorities and low- and moderate-income students through employer-aligned programming that includes mentoring and other support services. Merit America now partners with top employers to identify in-demand jobs for which they are struggling to hire qualified workers, to understand the specific skills needed, and to secure priority hiring commitments for their graduates. Merit America builds education programs backward from employers’ skill needs and co-locates in regions where jobs are available.

In its inaugural year in NYC, Merit America is on track to graduate 200 students (with a 75% graduation rate) from its programs, with its learners moving to meaningful jobs. Professor Ben Castleman at the University of Virginia concluded an analysis of Merit America’s initial 1,000+ graduates and found that Merit America drove an average annual wage gain of $18,700 for graduates in new roles, not including the value of benefits and long-term advancement opportunities. 80% of these learners had a positive wage gain, experiencing an average wage gain of $26,000 and doubling their average annual pre-program salaries. A corresponding Bridgespan study validated $117M+ in wage gains for learners served to date and showed that Merit America is on track to drive $21 in wage gains for every $1 in philanthropy spent in the next 3 years.

Merit America has strong employer partnerships with companies like Google, Amazon and JPMorgan Chase. In addition to building philanthropic support, Merit America has developed three earned revenue streams: 1) employer hiring fees from talent acquisition teams; 2) learner payment via a “Success Share Agreement”; and 3) upfront tuition paid by companies who want to upskill their workforce.

Heckscher is, in many ways, our number one reason that Merit America exists.

— Rebecca Taber
    Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Merit America