There’s a 120-year-old institution in downtown Manhattan changing the lives of women age 18–64. The appropriately named Grace Institute—named for its founder, William R. Grace—provides a tuition-free, employer-driven curriculum in two professional tracks that prepares low-income women to succeed professionally.
Grace Executive Director Brigid Lang told me more about this extraordinary program.
“Our mission is to provide training and support, including job placement services, for women who are looking to increase, strengthen, and enhance their skills in administrative support so they can work at full-time jobs that offer benefits and the possibility of advancement,” Lang told me.
Utilizing a strengths-based approach, Grace acknowledges that the women, many of whom are underemployed, are whole persons who’ve experienced successes and have untapped resources. They are seen as more than their challenges.
“The women come through Grace’s doors with a wealth of experiences,” says Lang. “They’re adults with lives and successes and challenges—and abilities to get through those challenges.”
Two Tracks Toward Financial Sustainability
Grace offers two professional curricular tracks: Administrative Professionals and the more sector-focused Patient Service Representative, an evening program for women interested in providing administrative support in the healthcare field.
The average personal income of women who enroll in the program is $6,000; the average salary of their first full-time job with benefits when they leave: $32,000—which begins for them “a process of financial sustainability,” Lang says.
To be admitted, candidates must be able to read on at least a ninth-grade level. They must also possess a high school diploma or GED, type 25 words per minute, and be eligible to work legally in the U.S.
Acceptance Means Success
Lang told me that women who are accepted into the program can succeed in the program. Grace provides support with whatever they may need to succeed—childcare, eldercare, or stabilizing housing, etc.
The program begins with 120 women per class.
“What women find when they come to Grace is a community that supports them.”
The organization’s Employment Services department partners with corporations to find jobs for graduates. It also provides professional job coaching for job seekers and those currently working. Eighty percent of enrollees graduate; 80% find jobs within a year; 65% stay in the jobs for at least one year.
“It’s the work of the women, really,” Lang told me. “We provide the structure and they do the work.”
Grace started out serving immigrant women. Although many enrollees are immigrants, many are non-immigrant women of color.
Lang says, “The world is challenging and we work to acknowledge those challenges. We work towards acknowledging what the women experience both here at Grace and in the outside world. We strive for authentic conversation here.”
For more about the Grace Institute, visit its website.