We provided the first funding to Merit America, which 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, such as Amazon and JP Morgan Chase, to identify in-demand jobs for which they are struggling to hire qualified workers, and 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 the regions where jobs are available.
The Merit America model includes using labor market data and partnering with employers to identify in-demand skills; delivering programs aligned to those skills that mix online and in-person learning; and recruiting and serving low wage working adults with demonstrated potential. With our funding, Merit America launched a 15-person pilot of the model in the D.C. metro area. Eighteen months later, Merit America demonstrated best-in-class results — 89% of learners earned industry-recognized credentials in less than three months, and 85% of job-seeking graduates secured a new career—driven meaningful wage gains, and has built a strong team with experience across sectors. Merit America is expanding its earned revenue in order to fuel its expansion to reach over 10,000 participants annually. This would make it one of the largest nonprofit training providers in the country and would fully prove out a new model for closing the skills gap at scale.