Case Studies & Stories

Opportunity Employer success stories

Grads of Life has worked with a number of leading organizations that have committed to becoming Opportunity Employers. Discover how a variety of businesses have embraced Opportunity Employment to create more diverse and inclusive organizations.

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Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County (SCC), despite its affluence, has a large Opportunity Youth population eager to access education and employment. SCC engaged Grads Of Life to help coordinate and align stakeholders. Grads of Life worked with local training providers to equip them with skills to deliver customized professional development training to Opportunity Youth across SCC.

As part of working with a municipality, Grads of Life brought together public and private stakeholders, partnering with Opportunity Youth Partnership (OYP), a member of the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF), to deliver customized Career Labs. Professional skills training sessions that focus on building community and effectively preparing Opportunity Youth for the workplace, SCC’s Career Labs equipped local training providers with the skills to deliver more impactful workforce readiness training to Opportunity Youth. Grads of Life supported OYP to administer these Career Labs to five local training providers, and connected Opportunity Youth to Grads of Life’s Opportunity Youth Employer Network.

81% of students completed the program. More than 90% of participants reported improved communication and problem-solving skills, and over 85% reported an increase in self-confidence. The initiative led to 23 Opportunity Youths gaining meaningful employment.

“I have spent 15 years working with Opportunity Youth and I have been waiting 15 years for something like Career Labs to take hold. I have seen myriad "Workforce Development" programs and “Career Readiness” trainings for Opportunity Youth. If those things worked, the game would be over by now. Career Labs is different.”

Joe Herrity Director, Opportunity Youth Partnership
Sector: Municipality

“We see Grads of Life as the ‘training wheels’ helping us and our members figure out what works. We are proud to have partnered with them to increase opportunity and economic mobility by investing in our future workforce.”

William “Chip” Rogers, President & CEO
Sector: Hospitality

American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA)

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) needed to address the labor shortages in the hospitality industry. They partnered with Grads of Life to meet targets set as part of their ‘Empowering Youth Initiative’ – to increase the number of Opportunity Youth hired in the hospitality industry, to help Opportunity Youth turn these positions into long-term careers in hospitality.

Grads of Life consulted with AHLA, bringing subject-matter expertise in identifying Opportunity Youth’s obstacles to success in the hospitality industry – designing solutions specific to AHLA’s goals. To establish career pathways for Opportunity Youth, and a replicable market-based program model that can be scaled nationwide, Grads of Life brought together hoteliers including Marriott and Hilton, and designed and created various assets such as Advisory & Design services, Playbooks and Work-based and Professional Skills training. These measures ensure that hoteliers understand how to best support and develop Opportunity Youth.

As of March 2020 the Empowering Youth Initiative has trained over 465 participants across 45 hoteliers in 6 markets. Recognizing the promise of this approach, AHLA has committed to investing another $2 million to these efforts over the next 3 years.

Bank of America

As part of a commitment to hiring 10,000 recruits from low to moderate income communities, Bank of America (BoA) sought Grads of Life’s expertise to create a strategy for the recruitment, training and development of people from these backgrounds.

Grads of Life conducted interviews and site visits at BoA banks and their existing non-profit partners to inform strategy design. BoA also collaborated with non-profit partners to provide professional development training in local communities. Grads of Life was not only able to provide some of this training but also helped BoA establish recruiting and partnership guidelines for this broad network of non-profit partners.Grads of Life also consulted on the implementation of tools and structures including working groups, a playbook for training providers, manager training, and a referral and hiring portal.

As of December 2019, Bank of America was more than 78% of the way to achieving their goal of hiring 10,000 people from low-to-moderate income backgrounds (8,076 hires).

“Demand for talent is stronger than ever and Grads of Life is helping us to recruit, develop and retain the best.”

John Jordan, Managing Director, Head of The Academy
Sector: Financial Services

“Grads of Life understands the importance of putting our mission at the center of every decision. They walked alongside us to develop concrete plans that will allow us to serve our members’ career needs and ultimately achieve sustained independence.”

Leslie Gill, Executive Director
Sector: Non-profit


Rung, a St. Louis non-profit organization launching in early 2021, helps women reach sustainable and fulfilling life outcomes. Rung sought Grad’s of Life’s expertise to develop a sustainable operating model that would offer career training and a holistic, supportive culture.

To inform their solution, Grads of Life undertook research to grasp not only the career needs of the women Rung will serve, but also the needs of the partners who will work with them. This research allowed Grads of Life to gain an understanding of the local labor market. Leveraging this insight alongside Year Up’s 20 years of experience providing workforce training to young adults allowed Grads of Life to share assets and best practices with Rung. Grads of Life then worked with them to establish a recruitment pipeline model and admissions assessments.

Following their partnership with Grads of Life, Rung was equipped with a clear set of organizational values and a unified vision for all partners, as well as an actionable, detailed Project Plan for an effective workforce training program ready for launch in 2021.