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• Aug. 24, 2023

Anita Carroll recalls the lightbulb moment five years ago, when the team she works with at ACCES Employment – a Toronto-based charitable organization that provides employment counselling and training to newcomers and underserved groups – came up with an idea to help women who were new-to-Canada start careers in information technology.

A $1-million (CAD) grant from the TD Ready Challenge turned Carroll’s idea into a full-fledged program at ACCES Employment called Women in Technology. To date, the program has helped approximately 250 women build skills in areas such as programming, web development and coding. About 90 per cent of graduates have found work in IT within a year of finishing the Women in Technology program.

“We have graduates who now hold roles such as quality assurance (QA) analyst, software developer, web developer and test specialist, while one woman has gone on to become a professor of technology at an Ontario college,” says Carroll, SVP, Corporate and Stakeholder Relations at ACCES Employment. “The results from the program have been fantastic, and we couldn’t have done it without the grant from the TD Ready Challenge.”

The TD Ready Challenge enters its sixth year

Launched in 2018 as part of the TD Ready Commitment—the Bank's corporate citizenship platform—the TD Ready Challenge is an annual North American initiative that awards 10 grants of $1 million each (in CAD or USD depending on the residence of the organization) to organizations developing innovative, impactful and measurable solutions for a changing world.

Each year, the TD Ready Challenge invites eligible non-profit and charitable organizations to submit solutions to a problem statement that is connected to one or more of the four drivers of the TD Ready Commitment: Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health.

For 2023, the TD Ready Challenge is looking to help address systemic barriers to affordable housing across the continuum from transitional to permanent homes, and to help increase access to affordable and stable housing.

These solutions should, ideally, also improve access to affordable and stable housing for those who need it most, such as people from racialized and Indigenous communities, seniors, newcomers, veterans, families with children – particularly those led by single women of colour – and people with low incomes, existing health conditions or disabilities. Applications are now open until September 13.

A new upskilling program

Caitlyn Brazill, Chief Development Officer at Per Scholas—a national non-profit organization based in the United States that provides tuition-free tech career training to people typically not represented in IT—has seen up close the impact of a TD Ready Challenge grant.

In 2020, Per Scholas received a TD Ready Challenge grant (in 2020, the TD Ready Challenge awarded grants of different denominations) to help fund a program that upskills previous Per Scholas graduates for careers in IT, cloud support, cybersecurity and software engineering.

“The impact is really significant,” says Brazill, whose organization has helped more than 20,000 graduates—including many women and people of colour—launch successful careers in technology.

“We now have more than 1,500 alumni who have benefitted from this set of alumni upskilling opportunities, offered at no-cost to Per Scholas-trained technologists. One of the quantifiable results we’ve seen is that those who have completed an alumni upskilling course are earning on average US$13,000 more than those who have not. At the same time, the program itself has benefitted because the TD Ready Challenge grant helped attract investments from other organizations.”

The impact of a TD Ready Challenge grant

In January 2023, just six months after she arrived in Canada from Ukraine, Polina Reshetilo heard about the ACCES Women in Technology program from another newcomer she met in her English language class in Toronto.

She applied for the nine-week program stream, geared towards women with less than two years of experience in technology.

“The program was much more than technology training,” said Reshetilo, who holds both a bachelor and a masters degree in international economics and worked as an economist and specialist in foreign affairs, foreign economics and investment, before she pivoted to software development.

“I got help preparing my curriculum vitae and was able to get a better understanding of the Canadian labour market. Through the program I also improved my communication skills and had opportunities to meet potential employers through networking events.”

On the day she graduated from the program, Reshetilo gave a speech that included a heartfelt thank you for the Bank's support for Ukrainians during the ongoing conflict and expressed her wish to join TD in the future.

She applied for an open role and successfully landed a job as an iOS developer at TD – a job she started in May 2023.

“Polina’s story is one example of how a program that received support from a TD Ready Challenge grant can make a difference and change people's lives,” says Carroll at ACCES. “The grant we received has allowed us to launch, build and grow Women in Technology. I encourage other organizations to learn about, and apply for, the TD Ready Challenge.”

Ready to apply?

TD will be accepting grant applications from eligible charities and not-for profits for the 2023 TD Ready Challenge until September 13, 2023. For complete details about this year's Challenge, including this year's problem statement, please visit: td.com/readychallenge

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