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An Interest in Innovation: New Grants Explore Non-Traditional Models

July 21, 2021 2-minute read
Grant Types:

Ascendium understands that learners move between educational and training experiences throughout their lives. It’s why our philanthropy supports institutions and systems as they work to facilitate seamless transitions at every step — from entering postsecondary education, transferring between postsecondary providers and entry or re-entry into the workforce.

Three new grants recently made in our streamline key learner transitions focus area explore non-traditional postsecondary education models designed to increase credential completion, employment outcomes and wages for low-income workers. They also have a focus on providing training for in-demand information technology (IT) careers to low-wage workers and offer wraparound services to set students up for success. Each innovative model is unique and will provide opportunities for Ascendium and the field to support learners from low-income backgrounds in finding new pathways for socioeconomic mobility.

  • Merit America provides flexible workforce development programs designed for underemployed and unemployed adults. Through a $837,000 Ascendium grant, Merit America will test service delivery models and assess whether they can drive comparable, equitable outcomes for all learners regardless of geographic location and determine their path to scale. Merit America is also interested in learning how to right-size their coaching model to achieve financial sustainability without sacrificing results. 
  • Apprenti provides registered IT apprenticeships to historically underrepresented populations in the technology sector. A $150,000 grant from Ascendium supports them in determining the viability of a formal partnership with a four-year degree granting institution. The partnership will provide a pathway to a bachelor’s degree for low-income and underrepresented learners who complete registered technology apprenticeships. If successful, the field may benefit from learning what it takes to design and develop the type of infrastructure that allows apprentices to move seamlessly to an associate or bachelor’s degree program.
  • Generation USA works with educational and employment systems to help learners excel and launch new careers through online training courses. A $1 million grant from Ascendium helps them in expanding their proven model of supporting learners from low-income backgrounds in accessing quality technology training. This leads to upward socioeconomic mobility and careers through community college partnerships. Generation USA’s strategy includes empowering community college systems to be more responsive to the changing economic landscape. They will do this by bringing credential-based learning to community colleges across the country and tying those credentials to job placement by partnering with employers to meet demand.

By investing in innovation, Ascendium can support new strategies that can create pathways and help smooth transitions for learners from low-income backgrounds. We look forward to learning from the key questions that will be answered through the important work each organization is completing.