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A quest to spark economic prosperity

Intuit’s successful Prosperity Hub Program, an array of job-readiness and job-creation initiatives for communities in need, has become a centerpiece of its corporate responsibility agenda.

When it comes to financial and social impact, the coronavirus pandemic has not been even handed. Economic inequality is on the rise, with an estimated one in six Americans living in economically challenged communities that have limited access to the educational programs, mentorship networks, and training resources that are crucial to help people prosper.

What’s more, COVID-19 has exacerbated the “digital divide” in these communities. The United Nations reports that 1.3 billion school-age children ages 3 to 17 do not have access to the internet at home, which negatively affects their ability to develop the skills they will need for future prosperity.

Against that backdrop, financial technology company Intuit is elevating its five-year-old commitment to its job-creation and job-readiness program, Intuit Prosperity Hubs, which is central to its corporate responsibility mission.  

The effort aspires to spark economic prosperity in cities and regions with high unemployment rates, poverty levels, and housing vacancies, such as Bluefield, W.Va., which has suffered the loss of coal jobs during the energy transition, and Johnstown, Pa., once a booming steel town.

“Helping communities prosper is part of who we are,” says Lara Balazs, chief marketing officer of Intuit and general manager of the company’s strategic partner group. “We recognize underrepresented minorities, specifically Black communities, are disproportionately impacted by economic hardship. As part of our journey in diversity, equity and inclusion, we have an increased focus on addressing this imbalance as we expand our Prosperity Hub Program.”

It’s making progress: Since 2016, Intuit reported that the eight existing Prosperity Hubs have created more than 2,300 customer support jobs, and generated at least $123 million in economic activity. That’s according to researcher Sage Policy Group, which is helping measure progress. In 2021, Intuit also created jobs for an additional 3,700 seasonal workers from underserved communities during this year’s tax season. Since August 2020, the company has also helped more than 214,000 individuals prepare for future work opportunities. Now Intuit is seeking to accelerate that impact dramatically: By fiscal year 2023, it has committed to creating 7,000 jobs, with 1.1 million individuals better prepared for future careers.

To help in its efforts, Intuit is partnering with four customer service companies—Alorica, Concentrix, Sitel, and Sykes—that have an ongoing need for customer service personnel. Approximately one-third of the positions created through the Prosperity Hub partnership are permanently virtual, which benefits job-seekers who need flexibility, particularly military families and veterans or individuals with varying abilities, Balazs says. Encouraging the rise of small businesses, such as day-care centers, is also a priority.

“Since we launched, we’ve seen firsthand that when people succeed, communities succeed,” Balazs says. “The jobs created through our program are game changers in these communities, where jobs have become scarce in recent years.”  

Intuit broadened the mandate of the Prosperity Hubs in 2018 to help prepare adults and students for jobs. It provides free resources, such as business simulations and career exploration; personal finance, bookkeeping, and entrepreneurship courses, competitions, and conferences. Many Intuit employees volunteer, through mentoring or by leading training sessions. Some serve as “Innovation Catalyst” volunteers, who teach Intuit’s own design-thinking process which is used by the company to create new products.  

Over the past year, Intuit has doubled down on its support for remote learning activities. In December 2020, it created the Intuit Digital Equity Initiative to support approximately 1.6 million students in underserved and diverse schools affected by the digital divide. U.S. school districts touched by the program include Oakland, Dallas, Baltimore, and more.

“Equal access to technology empowers students and educators in underserved school districts to have the same educational opportunities, leading to more prosperous and equitable outcomes, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender and more,” Balazs says. With that in mind, watch for Intuit to reach out to even more school districts in 2021 to further spark economic prosperity as the world emerges from the pandemic.