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Year Up Announces Launch of Client Advisory Board to Further Advance Skills-Based Hiring

Jul 22, 2024

Inaugural board members include leaders at Bank of America, BNY Mellon, Merck, Morgan Stanley, Salesforce, United, and Zurich North America


Boston, MA – August 29, 2023 – The national workforce development organization Year Up announced today the launch of its Client Advisory Board (CAB) to further increase access to meaningful careers for young adults without bachelor’s degrees.

Led by Morris Applewhite, National Head of Corporate Engagement at Year Up, the CAB is a group of cross-industry executives at top companies that are committed to advancing skills-first talent practices and strengthening economic mobility. These leading employers hire a significant number of entry- and mid-level talent into high demand roles that pay sustainable living wages.

“This advisory board will enable Year Up to benefit from board members’ first-hand knowledge and perspectives on topics such as industry trends, hiring challenges and how Year Up can better tailor its services to employers’ needs,” said Applewhite. “We are grateful for the inaugural members’ insights and expertise, which will allow us to be better positioned to close the Opportunity Divide through greater innovation, connections to new employer partners, and wider recognition of our role as a strategic provider of diverse talent pipelines.”

The inaugural members of the CAB are:

  • Sean Curtis, SVP, Global Regulatory Affairs & Clinical Safety and Quality Assurance at Merck
  • Hari Gopalkrishnan, CIO, Head of Consumer, Business & Wealth Management Technology team at Bank of America
  • Christie Gragnani-Woods, Head of Talent Acquisition for Regional Banking, Merrill, Private Bank and Community Partnerships at Bank of America
  • Geoff Massam, Managing Director, and Head of Technology at BNY Mellon
  • Jessica Muench, Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer at United
  • Darla Pires DeGrace, Executive Director, Head of Diversity Talent Acquisition at Morgan Stanley
  • Laura Rock, Chief Human Resources Officer at Zurich North America
  • Keith White, Chief Security and Safety at Salesforce

CAB members commit to serve on the board for 24 months and will meet quarterly. During the first meeting, members shared their reasons for joining the board and discussed what they will strive to accomplish. They also heard from Joseph Okoronkwo, a current Year Up intern at Wells Fargo.

Hari Gopalkrishnan at Bank of America and Jessica Muench at United were the first two leaders to join the CAB.

“Reducing obstacles to skills-based training enables underrepresented populations to secure roles in high demand industries,” said Gopalkrishnan. “Bank of America is committed to hiring the most talented and driven individuals representing diverse backgrounds and experiences. Its 15-year relationship with Year Up helps fulfil that commitment by providing an avenue to identify talented people equipped with their comprehensive role-specific training and programming. I am excited to join this advisory board and help Year Up’s and their corporate partners’ ability to further support bridging the opportunity divide.”

“By joining the CAB, my goal is to bring the voice of the corporate customer directly to Year Up and help them further refine their program to amplify their capability to meet real business needs, and in the process enable them to provide meaningful career opportunities to thousands more young adults across the country,” said Muench.

In total, the seven companies represented by the CAB members have hosted more than 4,000 Year Up interns and hired nearly 3,000 Year Up graduates to date.

Nationwide, 80 percent of Year Up graduates are employed or attending college within four months of completing the program, with average starting salaries of $52,000/year. In May 2022, the federally-sponsored Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) follow-up evaluation of Year Up showed that in the six years post-program, young adults randomly assigned to Year Up earned 30 percent more compared with similar young adults in a control group — the largest impact on earnings reported to date for a workforce program tested in a randomized controlled trial.

About Year Up Inc.
Year Up is a national 501(c)3 workforce development organization committed to ensuring equitable access to economic opportunity, education, and justice for all young adults—no matter their background, income, or zip code. Year Up utilizes a high-expectations, high support model where students learn in-demand technical and professional skills to help them effectively navigate a modern work environment. Year Up has served more than 40,000 young adults across 35 campuses since its founding in 2000 and has been voted one of the "Best Non-Profits to Work For" by The NonProfit Times. To learn more, visit, and follow us on LinkedInFacebookInstagramTwitter and TikTok.