Recently, Cara Collective launched our three-year strategic plan, “Access. Equity. Opportunity.” A key priority of this is to better leverage our partnerships (new and old) to create more inclusive career pathways and close the racial wealth gap in Chicago and beyond.
We’re doing this by working with employers on creating branded trainings, designed to give job seekers the skills and certifications to become more market-competitive. We’re doing this by working with companies to examine how to make their hiring practices more inclusive. And we’re doing this by working with other social-purpose organizations to create effective workforce development solutions.
One such partnership illustrating the success of this is our collaboration with BMO Harris on BMORE. Launched in late 2020, BMORE is designed to increase access to employment in banking and finance. Recruitment for BMORE focuses primarily on the Austin and Little Village neighborhoods in support of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative, which addresses economic disparity in key neighborhoods.
Two years in, BMORE is responsible for the creation of more than three dozen jobs in Chicago for individuals who previously felt excluded from careers in banking. Additionally, we continue to work with BMO Harris to fine tune and evolve the program to better meet the needs of job seekers based off observations and feedback received from them. The success of this is evident in the fact that BMO Harris has launched BMORE in two additional Midwest markets in 2022.
Preparing for and developing pathways to gainful employment for our Black and Brown communities is a critical step in solving the racial wealth gap. But creating lasting impact requires an investment from all of us—both in the individuals, and the ripple effect that happens as they achieve financial stability; and at the systems level by working with some of the largest national Fortune 500 companies. By bridging the gap between the two, only then can we begin building a stronger, more inclusive economy.
Kathleen St. Louis Caliento is president and CEO of Cara Collective, a 32-year-old workforce development enterprise based in Chicago that has placed people experiencing poverty into more than 13,000 jobs.