Merit America workforce training expands to Raleigh, Durham

If you need a new job after losing it in the pandemic or you’re looking to learn new skills to move on from your current job to a better paying one, you may be in luck.

Workforce training nonprofit Merit America announced that it’s expanding its program to North Carolina to tap into the local tech talent of the Research Triangle beyond the area’s recent college graduates.

The initiative hopes to place workers in 200 to 300 jobs in the first year, depending on relations with local employers and the labor market, Merit America’s co-CEO Connor Diemand-Yauman said in an email to The News & Observer.

Merit America helps adults without college degrees and without time to commit to more intensive job training programs by preparing workers with what they need to get a high-skill job or move up in their companies. Students of the program see an average salary increase of more than $18,000, the nonprofit said.

For North Carolina, where 1.1 million applied for unemployment benefits between March 15 and June 30, according to the Division of Employment Security, new job skills could prove useful.

The nonprofit, with programs in Washington, D.C., and the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area, partners with employers like Amazon, Google and Infosys and will build partnerships in the Triangle in the coming months, said Diemand-Yauman.

In-person career coaching, mentorship and online learning through small groups made up the model of Merit America, but it moved its learning all online once COVID-19 struck.

“By providing learners with not just skills training, but also career coaching and support, we work to overcome systemic barriers and create more equitable pathways to fulfilling and resilient careers,” said Diemand-Yauman. “In the wake of COVID-19, we’ve been able to quickly adapt all of our programs to continue serving working learners through an all-online model that still incorporates both academic support and personalized coaching.”

The nonprofit’s first cohort of jobseekers in the Triangle is focused on IT support and launches Sept. 14. It is currently accepting applications in the Raleigh and Durham areas.

“Merit America’s dynamic approach to skills-based training is enabling us to diversify our workforce and identify exceptionally qualified individuals in the region,” said Ravi Kumar, president and deputy chief operating officer at Infosys, in a press release.

Merit America was described by The New York Times as “a glimpse of the hybrid future of training programs for the disadvantaged” in a story about workforce training programs that have helped laid off workers and young people with their careers.

The nonprofit has partnered with Amazon to help its workers move up to higher roles. It’s also working with Infosys on Reskill and Restart, a online workforce training and hiring platform that was announced last month.

“Our work is built on a belief in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our commitment to these values is unavoidable,” said Diemand-Yauman. “Our explicit focus is on serving low-wage workers without bachelors degrees, a population that is disproportionately underrepresented minorities, reflected in the fact that 80% of our learners identify as underrepresented minorities.”

Merit America will open a physical location in the Triangle in the future when their normal programs can resume, said Diemand-Yauman.

In a press release, the mayors of Raleigh and Durham praised the announcement of the nonprofit’s expansion to the Triangle during the pandemic

“Forward-thinking partnerships between local employers like Infosys, and training providers focused on the region’s most in-demand skills, can help create new pathways to opportunity for displaced workers across the region,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said.

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Aaron Sánchez-Guerra is the business and real estate reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He previously worked at WLRN Public Media in Miami and as a freelance journalist in Raleigh and Charlotte covering the Latino population. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, a native Spanish speaker and was born in Mexico.

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