In 1897, W.R. Grace, an immigrant, shipping magnate, and twice-elected Mayor of New York City, founded Grace Institute as a tuition-free training program for women. His goals were to educate and to find employment for women in need. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, over 100,000 women have learned skills to successfully enter the workforce.
The Early Years: “Grace Institute was originally staffed by the Sisters of Charity. The curriculum guide in 1898 listed cookery, millinery, child care, Red Cross, childrens sewing, and dressmaking as course offerings. By the turn of the century, Grace Institute was offering a schedule of business classes in typing, bookkeeping, and stenography to help women secure jobs in New York Citys rapidly growing business community. This training qualified women for the better-paying positions in offices that were a welcome alternative to factory work.”
20th Century: Over the years, Grace Institute evolved into a secretarial training program that prepared women for careers in the business world. This included instruction in shorthand, telephone technique, secretarial procedures, and business law. In the early 1960s, part of Fordham University was to be located in the new Lincoln Center complex which required Grace Institute to move from its west-side location. In 1963, J. Peter Grace, grandson of W. R. Grace and President of Grace Institute, constructed a new building for the school on Second Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Along with secretarial skills, new courses were offered in fashion merchandising, food and nutrition, and clothing construction.
In 1997, Grace Institute celebrated its 100th Anniversary.
Bill Clinton, Former President of the United States: For a century, the faculty and staff of Grace Institute have been offering an ideal learning opportunity for their students and preparing them for the responsibilities that lie ahead. Our nation relies on schools such as this to supply the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in the twenty-first century
George Pataki, Former Governor, State of New York: It gives me great pleasure to offer congratulations to the staff, students, and all associated with Grace Institute on the occasion of its 100th birthday. You have every reason to be proud of Graces contributions as a training school for women. Since 1897, Grace has been committed to developing the practical skills for obtaining employment and developing self-sufficiency. The women who complete training at Grace Institute greatly improve the quality of their lives.
Office of the Mayor, City of New York: For one hundred years Grace Institute and the Sisters of Charity have provided fine training for New York women, teaching skills that enable them to successfully enter the business world. Therefore, I Rudolph W. Guiliani, Mayor of the City of New York, in recognition of this important anniversary, do herby proclaim, Wednesday, April 16, 1997 in the City of New York as Grace Institute Centennial Day.”
As women’s roles in the workplace continued to change over the decades, Grace Institute continued to adapt is program to meet their needs. The Sisters of Charity were no longer able to run the organization; therefore, professional staff members were hired and Grace continued to become more demand driven and attune to the needs of the labor market and their employer partners.
Grace was championed by Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Marie Wilson, Founder of the MS Foundation for Women.
Grace continued to serve as a market leader in workforce development and launched new administrative and customer support trainings to serve the legal, healthcare, nonprofit and hospitality industries.
In 2015, Grace said farewell to its home on 2nd Avenue and moved its headquarters to a new facility at 40 Rector Street.
THE GRACE APPROACH
Grace Institute is one of only three workforce development programs in NYC focused solely on women, and is unique in its commitment to identifying and training for middle skill jobs.
The Grace high touch approach combines the following:
- Five months of computer and professional training
- Workshops with corporations and executives
- A community of collaboration and confidence
- One year of job placement services
- One year of job retention support
- Lifetime access to post graduate workshops and community
…All free of charge.
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- Graces program model results in life changing outcomes:
- 80% graduation rate (10% higher than comparative programs)
- 80% job placement rate in one year (10% higher than comparative programs)
- 70% job retention rate for over one year
- $32,000 annual starting salary (compared to an average of $6,000 personal income prior to the program)
- Reduced government spending on public assistance and unemployment
*Comparative data collected through the Workforce Benchmarking Project