Honoring Black History Month

February 25, 2021

For nearly 70 years, the Caterpillar Foundation’s vision has remained consistent – to support the communities where we live and work to be stronger, more resilient and more sustainable.  

Through its focus on building resilient communities, the Foundation is committed to helping improve the lives of people around the world through investments in the skills they need to join the modern workforce and the vital infrastructure that supports them.

A particular focus of the Foundation’s workforce development efforts includes closing the growing achievement gap in underserved communities. Currently, in low and middle-income communities across the United States, the education gap prevents people from gaining the skills they need to become technical workers. Additionally, less than a third of U.S. schools with high proportions of minority students offer calculus, and less than 12% of Black college graduates get a STEM degree. 

Through its partnerships and initiatives, the Foundation is creating pathways for under-served and under-resourced individuals to gain 21st century jobs through workforce readiness, vocational training and STEM education. 

This year, in honor of Black History Month, the Caterpillar Foundation is proud to spotlight three recent partnerships in our local communities that are driving impact, helping close the opportunity gap, and are preparing the workforce of tomorrow. These partnerships exemplify the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to creating opportunities and equipping underserved communities with skills needed for success. 

Athens Community Career Academy | Athens, Georgia

The Clarke County School District (CCSD) serves almost 13,000 students across 21 schools. Although all schools in the district qualify as a Title I school, CCSD is committed to opening the doors of opportunity for every child. CCSD’s students represent the following demographics: 49% Black; 25% Hispanic; 20% Caucasian; 4% multi-racial; and 2% Asian. 

The Athens Community Career Academy (ACCA) offers a unique and innovative environment where high school students receive career-focused and college-level courses to ensure students are on a successful path upon graduation. Partnering with local and regional businesses, the ACCA offers students unique opportunities to prepare them for life after high school – either in college or the workforce. 
With a recent grant from the Caterpillar Foundation made through the Athens Area Community Foundation, ACCA will foster the next generation of workers with a new advanced manufacturing and welding pathway aligned to local industry needs. The Foundation’s support helped fund a brand-new, hands-on lab for students to develop key skills. 

The ACCA projects that 85% of student participants will earn industry-recognized advanced manufacturing and welding credentials. 

Dream Center Peoria | Peoria, Illinois

The Caterpillar Foundation has partnered with the Dream Center Peoria since 2006. Our most recent  investment supports their Youth Job Skills Program, which aims to develop the skills of underserved middle and high school youth to prepare them for specific in-demand jobs that don’t require a traditional four-year degree, but still offer family-supporting incomes. The youth participants primarily represent Peoria 150 School District, which is comprised of 58% Black students. Students can choose from one of eight programs, including areas such as carpentry, small engine repair, 3D printing, auto-mechanics, foundry, electronics and home electrical. Programs are run by industry expert volunteers and time is focused on hands-on skills development.

The Dream Center Peoria projects that 80% of participants are expected to complete the program, with 75% able to demonstrate understanding of STEM concepts. 

United Way of Forsyth County | Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The United Way of Forsyth County’s Place Matters program is an innovative, place-based approach to community development. Place Matters focuses within the northeastern corridor of Winston-Salem, NC, a 13-neighborhood geographic area comprised of predominantly Black and Latinx communities and marked by disparities in health, socioeconomic mobility and education. Support from the Caterpillar Foundation is helping develop employment opportunities and support economic mobility through paid apprenticeships designed to prepare young people to work in the local construction industry. Apprentices work alongside professionals to develop skills in new construction and create connections with local resources at Forsyth Technical Community College, the Career Center (a high school extension program of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system), and the Winston-Salem Home Builders Association, which are projected to lead to fulltime, well-paying positions. Apprentices receive a stipend at the successful conclusion of their service to assist in furthering their education if they choose.  

The program projects 100% of participants will gain increased building trade (or related) skills by program end, and 80% are projected to gain new or improved employment in a building trade within six months of program completion.

National Partners

In addition to these grants and its continued work in supporting workforce development across the communities where we live and work, the Caterpillar Foundation announced a commitment to help fight racism and social injustice in 2020, donating $1 million split equally between the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (NAACP LDF). Thanks to the continued generosity of the Caterpillar team, employees and retirees have submitted more than $14,000 in match requests to EJI and the NAACP LDF to date since 2020!  

Additionally, the Foundation recently joined the STEM Careers Coalition. Led by Discovery Education, the coalition includes industry leaders who have joined forces to impact the culture of STEM education in K-12 schools across the United States and prepare the next generation of STEM leaders. In celebration of Black History Month, the coalition released a collection of classroom materials highlighting leading Black professionals in STEM. Read about them here.

Get Involved

Looking to make a difference? The NAACP shared this list of 28 ways you can celebrate Black History Month

If you plan to donate to an organization you’re passionate about, consider the Foundation’s U.S. Matching Gift Program to help double your impact. Check here for program guidelines and to determine if your organization is eligible for the match.