Organization History

Founded in 1964 by the late Reverend Doctor Leon Howard Sullivan, OIC of America, Inc. (OICA) is a national non-profit network of employment and training programs bound together by a common commitment…to help the disadvantaged realize their true potential. OIC has grown into a movement, which has served over 2.5 million disadvantaged and under-skilled people.  Rev. Sullivan recognized the need to establish a national headquarters to provide technical assistance to organizations interested in developing an OIC program in their communities. On March 9th, 1970, Articles of Incorporation for OIC of America, Inc. were officially signed by Rev. Sullivan, Rev. William J. Shaw, Rev. Robert DuBose, Jr., Rev. Cecil D. Gallup, and Ira Wells, Jr.

Our Founder

“Build Brother Build” is the title of Reverend Leon H. Sullivan’s book detailing the birth and development of Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC). It is also the philosophy by which he governed his life.

Born in Charleston, West Virginia, on October 16, 1922, Leon H. Sullivan became a Baptist minister at age 18. He graduated from West Virginia State College and the Columbia University Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

He eventually moved to Philadelphia to become pastor of the Zion Baptist Church in 1950. From the pulpit, he could clearly see the needs of his community. Thousands were unemployed and yet thousands of jobs were vacant. Rev. Sullivan believed that jobs were the key to the economic development and true empowerment of African Americans rather than a dependence upon public assistance.

Sullivan organized 400 other ministers and launched a “selective patronage” campaign whose main purpose was to boycott the Philadelphia-based companies that did not practice equal opportunity in employment. The boycott opened up more than 4,400 jobs to African Americans, yet many still needed to be trained and prepared for those jobs.

In order to insure that those individuals who got a job possessed the skills to keep the job, Rev. Sullivan founded the very first OIC training center in 1964 in an abandoned jailhouse in North Philadelphia. The dilapidated building was renovated using donations from people in the community and an anonymous grant. The OIC provided job and life skills training and matched its graduates with the employment needs of Philadelphia businesses. The undertaking was a huge success, and the programs were quickly replicated in cities across the United States providing comprehensive employment training and placement for disadvantaged, unemployed and unskilled Americans of all races. In 1969, OIC International was created to provide employment-training services on a global scale based on the OIC philosophy of “self-help”. In 1970, Rev. Sullivan established OIC of America, Inc. to serve as the national headquarters to OIC Affiliates and the technical assistance center for communities replicating the OIC model.


OIC’s mission is to continue to be the nation’s leader in providing quality education, training, employment, and housing services through a national network of local affiliated organizations enabling economically disadvantaged people of all races and background to become productive fulfilled members of the American society.’


The OIC philosophy of “Self Help” and the system of developing the “whole person” enables individuals to become self-sufficient, productive workers. OIC prepares people for today’s workforce with quality life skills development, fundamental education, job skills training, and employment readiness.

OIC Founder & History

1958 – The Appeal

Recognizing that job opportunities for African-Americans were extremely limited, Dr. Leon H. Sullivan appeals to Philadelphia’s largest businesses to interview young blacks for jobs.

1964 – Dr. Sullivan Founded The First OIC Training Center

Working out of an abandoned jailhouse in north Philadelphia, Dr. Sullivan founded the first OIC training center to provide employment training and retraining in impoverished communities.

1966 – The Expansion

OIC receives national recognition and begins to expand, establishing centers in eight additional cities.

1969 – Build Brother Build

Dr. Sullivan publishes “Build Brother Build,” his seminal work that details the philosophy, birth and development of the OIC model.

1970 – OIC Of America, Inc.

OIC of America, Inc. is established to serve as the national headquarters to OIC Affiliates and provide technical assistance to communities replicating the OIC model.

1988 – Quantum Opportunity Program

OICA develops the Quantum Opportunity Program (QOP), a multi-year, intensive case management and mentoring program for high school youth. The program is rigorously evaluated and eventually adapted by the Eisenhower Foundation for widespread dissemination.

2014 – OIC Prepare Workers For High-Demand “Green” Careers

Leveraging $12.8 million in US Department of Labor grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , OICA launched programs in 7 cities to prepare workers for high-demand “green”  careers.


1971 – OIC Becomes A Prime National Contractor

OIC received $32,600,000 from the Department of Labor to serve as “a prime national contractor” for manpower services throughout the U.S. for more than a decade.

1998 – The Impact

OIC has trained more than 3 million people, and placed more than 2.5 million in jobs, with its alumni collectively earning $80 billion a year (L.H. Sullivan, Moving Mountains, Judson Press, 1998).

2016 – OICA Launches National Re-Entry Initiative (SOAR)

OICA launches national re-entry initiative (SOAR) to provide returning citizens vocational training, work readiness and education to help reduce recidivism, funded by 2 grants from the Dept. of Labor totaling $9 million.