STEP assists low-income residents with training and reskilling for better jobs
Asheville, N.C. – Bank of America and Asheville-Buncombe Technical (A-B Tech) Community College today announced continued support for the college’s Skills Training Employment Program (STEP) through a $150,000 commitment from Bank of America over two years. Bank of America also awarded $50,000 last year for STEP, which provides low-income residents with clearly defined career pathways and placement services for long-term, living-wage jobs.
“We are beyond grateful for this support from Bank of America,” said A-B Tech President John Gossett. “It funds nearly half of our STEP program and supports the expansion of critical services our STEP team provides in partnership with Buncombe County’s Department of Health and Human Services to help economically disadvantaged residents transition into living-wage jobs and increase the pool of skilled workers for area employers.”
“Bank of America’s ongoing support for the A-B Tech Foundation and STEP is aligned with our commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity,” said Andy Nadeau, president of Bank of America Asheville. “By connecting these individuals to the skills, resources, and experience they need to succeed, this type of workforce development program helps create sustainable change.”
STEP annually serves more than 200 clients, comprised of 89 percent women and more than 55 percent racial or ethnic minorities. The program provides direct support to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) participants who are 16 and older for occupational skills training, English-language education, obtaining high school equivalency (GED), basic literacy and numeracy instruction, and academic courses needed to earn two-year associate degrees. The STEP Career Resource Center also offers essentials such as resume creation, interview training, and employer connections.
“We are extremely grateful for Bank of America’s generosity and continued support,” said Deborah Wright, A-B Tech’s Vice President for Continuing Education and Workforce Development. “Last year’s $50,000 grant made a real difference to the STEP program and this additional grant furthers our goals of removing educational and employment barriers to high-quality jobs and giving more local residents the opportunity to share in the area’s broader gains.”
Bank of America’s continued support will enable the STEP program to provide direct support funds for all clients and expand programming in the coming year, said Jeremy Lett, the college’s coordinator of Community Engagement and Support Services. Specific enhancements include:
- Partially covering salaries for the Human Resources Development lab
- Addressing technology barriers and providing laptops
- Assisting with gas cards and other transportation barriers
- Providing supplemental funds for training fees and other ancillary fees for participants
- Developing alternative workforce development training pathway programs
Learn more about two STEP clients who have received direct support from the Bank of America funds:
- Jennifer Phillips
Jennifer has been a STEP program client since April of 2021. During that time, she has become CPR-certified, completed the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) program, and is exploring a career as a Clinical Medical Assistant. In March of this year, Education Navigator Fabiola Cunningham was notified by a MAHEC recruiter of a new pathway program that trains CNAs to become Certified Clinical Medical Assistants (CCMAs). The program hires CNAs at $16/hour, for 40 hours a week to train on-site as CMAs. Upon completion of the program, they are hired as permanent and the pay increases to a minimum of $18/hour.
STEP navigator Cynthia Conboy also assisted Jennifer with updating her resume, completing the application, and with interview skills, resulting in Jennifer being hired by MAHEC in April. She ended her employment at Burger King the day before she began at MAHEC. At the end of April, Jennifer's car broke down and she had to use public transportation and ask classmates for daily rides to class. With the help of the Bank of America funds, her car was repaired so that she could continue her training. Upon completing the class, Jennifer will begin her new job.
- Amber Smith
Amber was the first STEP client enrolled in A-B Tech’s new Truck Driver Training (CDL) program. After successfully completing one of A-B Tech’s Health Occupations courses, Amber concluded that the healthcare field wasn't the best path for her right now. She then learned about the opportunity to enroll in the Truck Driver Training Program, Amber felt that training would be a better fit for her long-term goal of eventually owning her own business.
After successfully completing the five-week training, Amber secured employment at a local company in Asheville making $21.50/hour, and will receive a pay increase once she starts driving over the road. Amber still aspires to start her own trucking business and will be taking Ed2Go courses to learn more about running a business. Bank of America's generosity enabled the STEP program to cover the costs of Amber’s Truck Driver Training course.
Several other organizations also support STEP, including Buncombe County Health & Human Services (BCHHS), Housing Authority of the City of Asheville, Mountain Housing Opportunities, and Mission Health. The State of North Carolina also provides a 50 percent match of qualifying local expenditures in direct support of students.