BofA jobs initiative to upskill workers of color in Arizona

As the pandemic highlights racial inequities in the nation, Bank of America (BofA) is focusing much of its philanthropy on people of color, including preparing community college and university students for higher paying jobs in high demand industries.   

In Arizona, BofA is giving a total $1 million to Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson and Arizona State University (ASU) Downtown in Phoenix as part of a nationwide jobs initiative to help Black and Latino communities, which have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. 

Adriana Kong

“We remain committed to helping address the barriers to sustainable employment that exist for many communities of color,” said Adriana Kong Romero, the bank’s market president in Tucson, where community college students of color have very low rates of graduation. 

As part of the workforce initiative, BofA is working with major employers and the nonprofit Aspen Institute to target specific hiring needs and create a clearly defined career pathway to future employment, bank officials said.

PCC College sets sights on workforce for manufacturing, IT, medical  

PCC will use the funding to accelerate the development of its implementation of “micro pathways” such as non-degree, certificate, and apprenticeship opportunities in manufacturing, IT, construction, logistics, and emergency medical services.

Great need in community colleges 

While some PCC students transfer to a university to continue their education, fewer than 16 percent earn a certificate or degree within six years at the college. 

Nationally, less than 40 percent of the community college students earn a certificate or degree within six years. For students of color, graduation rates are particularly low – 11.1 percent for Black students and 18.6 percent for Hispanic. 

Chancellor Lambert

“This funding will allow us to close critical skills gaps and open new opportunities for Pima graduates,” said PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert, who has been focused on becoming a top producer of highly skilled technicians for industries like aerospace, defense, manufacturing, and healthcare.

ASU push to produce more professionals of color 

ASU intends to use the funding to continue to encourage and guide students of color to become professionals in technology, medicine, engineering, education, design and other industries. 

Among the companies partnering with ASU to prepare and recruit students are ON Semiconductor, Intel, Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service, ADP, Enterprise, Vanguard, State Farm, Ball Aerospace, PepsiCo, and Texas Instruments.

ASU President Michael Crow

President Michael Crow has long stated that Arizona’s future lies in creating a path for the state’s large Hispanic population to achieve academic and career success. 

Under his vision, Latino student enrollment has almost doubled in the past 12 years with approximately 15,700 Hispanics enrolled in fall 2018. Today, more than 40 percent of students are from underrepresented populations, and of all undergraduates, 35 percent are the first in their family to attend college. 

“There is an enormous amount of work to be done to reach all of the learners who have the drive and desire to attend college, and this contribution by BofA helps more of them achieve their dreams,” Crow said.  

Bank commits $1 billion to advance racial economic opportunity 

The workforce initiative is part of BofA’s recent $1 billion, four-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. Of that, $25 million is going to upskill and reskill students of color. The initiative includes partnerships with nearly two dozen community colleges that serve predominantly Black and Hispanic-Latino students, public Black colleges and universities and public Hispanic-serving institutions. 

Ultimately, the goal is to place them in higher paying and family sustaining jobs, bank and college officials said. 

To read more about BofA’s efforts to help students of color, go to: BofA workforce initiative.

Victoria Harker

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