A-B Tech Foundation and Bank of America announce expansion of Skills Training Employment Program (STEP)

The Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech) Foundation is partnering with Bank of America to expand the college’s Skills Training Employment Program (STEP), which aims to offer clearly defined career pathways and job placement to low-to moderate-income individuals.

STEP provides Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants access to curriculum and programming, which includes occupational skills training, English-language education, basic literacy instruction and academic courses necessary to towards earning a two-year associates degree. The program provides individual case management services to prepare those potential workers to fill specific local hiring needs and worker shortages in Western North Carolina.

STEP serves over 200 participants a year, with the vast majority going into frontline health occupations. At the STEP Career Resource Center, coordinators and education navigators offer comprehensive support to the participants every step of the way, including creating individual education and career plans, navigating the college enrollment process, drafting a compelling résumés, developing interview skills and connecting participants with employers. The goal of the program is to assist the participants with the cost of courses, books, materials, uniforms and testing. These direct support funds often run out before the end of the year and Bank of America’s investment will ensure that funding is available to support the needs of every participant through the 2021-22 school year.

“Our partnership with A-B Tech Community College expands access to important skills training and curriculum to help participants prepare and pursue stable employment with viable career paths and sustainable living wages,” said Andy Nadeau, President, Bank of America Asheville. “Workforce development is key to advancing economic opportunity and we look forward to seeing the positive impact of this program on our region for years to come.”

Bank of America’s $50,000 investment both provides direct support for STEP program participants and aligns with the company’s commitment to advance economic mobility and racial equality by helping to address issues facing women and communities of color. More than half of STEP participants are racial or ethnic minorities and the vast majority, 89%, are women.

“I am thrilled with this award from Bank of America,” said Deborah Wright, A-B Tech Vice President, Economic and Workforce Development and Continuing Education. “It not only recognizes the great work that the team, led by Shaneka Haynes, is doing in partnership with Buncombe County DHHS, but it will allow us to do expand our impact. Today, having support and training helps our clients’ transition into living-wage jobs and fulfilling our community’s hiring needs."  

Several organizations 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 provides a 50% match of qualifying local expenditures in direct support of students and Bank of America’s partnership and $50,000 investment will go a long way in increasing this matching investment.

Successful participants and graduates of the STEP program have secured employment paying at least $12 per hour in roles with continued opportunity for growth or promotion. Many STEP participants express gratitude for the support they receive and one recent graduate shared:

“Prior to starting the STEP program, I was working at a daycare center and barely surviving financially. I started looking into the Ophthalmic Assistant Program at A-B Tech as a chance to start a new career with better pay. While at A-B Tech, I learned about and joined the STEP program, and it was the best decision I could have made. The program helped pay for my class, materials and connected me with my mentor Christi who always had kind words of encouragement for me. I have now graduated and currently work at a local eye center making $14/hr., which will go up to $16/hr. after I finish my state testing. I enjoy my job and I want to thank everyone with the STEP program because without it I wouldn’t have been able to do this!”

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