How our OneTen pilot program paved the way for hiring diverse talent

Our Durham, N.C. site became one of the first Merck locations to adopt the OneTen initiative, with the goal of closing the wealth gap for Black Americans

May 11, 2022

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diverse employees

One million jobs in 10 years. It’s a promise Merck and about 50 other leading companies have made to change hiring practices in the U.S. and place skilled Black workers into family-sustaining jobs. Through the OneTen coalition and a new skills-first hiring approach, we’re already hard at work making good on that promise.

Co-founded by Executive Chairman of the Board and former CEO of Merck Ken Frazier in December 2020, OneTen was born out of a time of upheaval — when the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic laid bare the deep disparities that Black Americans face daily. For Frazier and other business leaders around the country, it was a call to action.

“This is a moment in time for Americans to move past our divisions to come together and reach our full potential as a nation,” Frazier said. “Through the creation of one million jobs for Black Americans over the next 10 years, OneTen has the potential to address persistent intergenerational gaps in opportunity and wealth.”

Our vaccine manufacturing facility in Durham, North Carolina, became one of two Merck sites to launch OneTen pilot programs in the summer of 2021.

“I think the Durham site has always been considered very forward-thinking and advanced in our diversity and inclusion journey,” said Amanda Taylor, plant manager and associate vice president. “But we can always do more. We need to continue to change and improve and be the light in the darkness for others around us.”

Reducing income inequality with skills-first hiring

OneTen promotes a skills-first approach to hiring. This means emphasizing a person’s skills and competencies, rather than degrees, when hiring for appropriate roles.

The goal is to create more opportunities for skilled candidates without bachelor’s degrees, including student workers, tradespeople and military veterans.

“OneTen provides an opportunity to create a workforce that mirrors the diverse communities we serve and make a significant long-term impact.”

Ngozi Motilewa

OneTen program lead and associate director, talent acquisition

It’s a major shift for how our company attracts, develops and advances talent. To help get this ambitious initiative off the ground, the pilot programs — in Durham and West Point, Pennsylvania — began with a focus on jobs in manufacturing and Information Technology (IT).

“Almost all of our roles had a four-year degree requirement,” said Vinay Khanna, executive director, supply chain management and the Merck Durham OneTen lead, “so we went back and questioned that.”

The Durham team revamped requirements for positions including support associates, operators and technicians. To date, Durham and West Point have posted more than 400 jobs that do not require a four-year degree.

Building the OneTen network with career fairs  

tent with Merck banner and people talking

For the Durham team, finding the right people to fill those positions meant rethinking their approach to recruiting as well. The site partnered with a local church to host its first-ever community career fair, an event that drew more than 100 jobseekers.

True to the community spirit of the event, Merck employees volunteered to help run the career fair, meeting with candidates one-on-one to talk about what it’s like to work for the company and walk them through the application process.

“We wanted to help them understand that they have skills that are transferrable and that you don’t have to have a college degree to work at Merck.”

Brittany Anderson

Associate director, operations, and Durham chapter lead of the League of Employees of African Descent (LEAD)

“For example, if someone worked at Amazon and had experience working with materials and distribution,” said Anderson, “we showed them how to tailor their resume to highlight the skills that could be needed in this industry.”

Amplifying Black talent and looking ahead

To date, Durham has held two community career fairs and made several new hires, including Shaheera Drummond, a biology major at Winston-Salem University who will graduate this spring.

“This is my first exposure to the pharmaceutical industry, but I think the company is great about finding a position for you,” said Drummond, who started as a technician in January. She said she’s glad Merck is “taking a new approach in offering jobs to those that may not know much about the company and giving them an opportunity to step in and be able to grow.”

“The importance of an equitable and inclusive workforce cannot be overstated, and through our work with OneTen, we are putting action behind our words,” said CEO and President Rob Davis. “I am personally committed to ensuring our skills-first focus creates greater opportunities at Merck and enables Black talent — and all talent — to succeed here.”

Efforts are underway to spread the word about the OneTen program nationwide. In mid-May, Frazier joined OneTen CEO Maurice Jones for a launch event in Philadelphia, where they introduced the initiative to business and community leaders. With the pilot phase now complete, our company plans to roll out skills-first hiring enterprise-wide in the second half of this year.

women colleagues chatting

Are you interested in putting your skills to work?