Merit America is focused on improving career outcomes for Black professionals.
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AfroTech spoke with Chief Program Officer Latricia Barksdale about the workforce development organization’s goal to enable millions of low-wage workers to climb the ladder and receive wages that can sustain their households.
“What we are looking to address at Merit America is the issue of 53 million Americans who are disproportionately people of color, including Black people who are stuck in low-paying jobs, and many of those jobs don’t offer the opportunity for career or economic mobility, and many of them don’t pay a family sustaining wage,” Barksdale explained. “So, we think that it’s important to provide a pathway for all Americans, regardless of what educational opportunities or other opportunities that may have or may have not been available to them.”
In addition, you don’t need to pay anything up front, she adds, as payments begin at least three months after you’ve completed or left the program.
“Our program is set up to be fast so that people can continue to work and manage their other responsibilities while building skills in these high-demand areas, and it is meant to be affordable so that it is accessible to a larger group of people, especially to those who may have fewer financial resources,” Barksdale said.
Ultimately, she hopes Black communities will have a fair shot at the American Dream. In her view, the organization is blazing a trail that has been blocked historically. These barriers include educational requirements, such as a degree, which are not always associated with success in the workplace.
“If we can get to a place where more employers are evaluating candidates based on demonstrated skills and based on their talent and what they’re able to show they can do, I think that will open up opportunities to folks who have been otherwise left out of those opportunities in the past,” Barksdale expressed.