Grant Thornton program sets example for developing diverse, career-ready workforce

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) released its inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Benchmark Report at its State of DEI in Sept. 2022. The report highlights DEI-related areas in which member companies are doing well and areas of opportunity for action to improve their efforts.

The report shows that 60% of the businesses surveyed said they recruited from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), or both. DRC member Grant Thornton’s Train the Trainer Career Readiness (TTCR) program is a shining example of the value of investing in the development of a diverse, career-ready workforce.

The TTCR program was created in 2021 through a collaboration between Grant Thornton, American Express, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. It is designed to foster professional preparation skills and resources at HBCUs to help ensure Black students are equipped to thrive in internships and full-time positions in corporate America.

Within two years of the TTCR program’s establishment, more than 500,000 Black students from over 40 qualifying schools are benefiting from this work, and Grant Thornton is already seeing the benefits.

“One of the many great results from our work so far is that many teachers and staff are now able to help their students better prepare for interviews,” said Pat Andrews-Osula, Managing Director of Grant Thornton’s Dallas Audit practice. “We’ve also seen an influx of applicants from HBCUs at Grant Thornton and other organizations, as well as more job offers to HBCU students.”

Interest from universities in the TTCR program is growing; Grant Thornton initially started with a goal of building intentional partnerships with just seven HBCUs but has since added 20 HBCUs and HSIs to the list of focus schools for the 2023 fiscal year.

Businesses have tried similar programs before to help build up and hire from the vast HBCU talent pool, but according to Andrews-Osula, Grant Thornton is taking a different approach by going into the communities and investing time, talent, and other resources in those communities. They are working with students to help them become the accountants of tomorrow, while also teaching professors and staff to help support the students with their needs.

Andrews-Osula says other companies can help support HBCUs by establishing close relationships with a college or university to better understand the needs of their students and where they can help make an impact.

Andrews-Osula also recommends companies look to the DRC DEI Benchmark Report to understand where they stand in supplier diversity or hiring and recruiting from HBCUs to help identify areas for improvement. She says these types of reports are important because every organization needs a strategy that builds, manages, measures, and monitors effective DEI programs—programs that have tangible impacts for an organization and its people. The DRC’s DEI Benchmark Report serves as a baseline that organizations can use to measure or monitor the progress of their DEI programs and the impact they are having within their organizations and external communities.

“Today’s global business economy requires employers to make DEI both a priority and an integral part of their organization’s strategy,” said Andrews-Osula. “Committing to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment isn’t just the right business move; it’s the right thing to do, period.”