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Multicultural Banking Program Trains Bilingual Employees for American Finance Careers

A picture of Amy Andraos.

In her native city of Dubai, Amy Andraos was head of wealth management at a bank with twenty years of experience under her belt.

In 2011, she got married and moved to Owings Mills, Maryland, where she chose to put her career on hold to stay home with the couple’s two children.

As the children got older, Amy began thinking about returning to the banking industry. But she knew cultural differences would provide challenges in getting her foot in the door. That’s when a friend told her about Howard Community College’s (HCC) Banking and Finance Training for Bilingual Speakers program, which began at the college last fall.

“I wanted to give it a try,” she said. “I am very glad that I did.”

Now in its second year, the 10-week noncredit Banking and Finance program, which began mid-September, introduces advanced-level English as a Second Language (ESL) learners to the world of finance. Through the program, participants learn professional and organizational skills, such as meeting workplace expectations and interacting with customers, take part in mock interviews and networking opportunities, and discuss cultural differences and their impact on the workplace. Students also learn industry specific vocabulary, and practice various types of professional writing, such as emails, memos, business letters, and resumes.

The program also partners with local banks to help train their future workforce. An advisory board, made of representatives from the banks and HCC, helped to develop the curriculum that teaches both career and banking skills.

This year, HCC partnered with M&T Bank, Sandy Spring Bank, BB&T, Howard Bank, Wells Fargo, and SunTrust Bank. The banks actively participate in the course, sending representatives as guest speakers, engaging in mock interviews with students, and providing networking opportunities.

The mock interviews were not only Amy’s favorite part of the program, but resulted in three job offers by the end of the course. Right after the program, Amy began working for First National Bank in Columbia – and has already been promoted twice.

“My main goal is to do my best and keep growing,” she said. “I want to be a mortgage specialist, so I’m trying to get into the mortgage field as much as I can. That’s my target right now.”

Of the thirteen students who participated in the inaugural course last fall, three, including Amy, applied and were offered banking after completing the program, said Chris Morphew, Academic Support Coordinator HCC’s English Language Center. Others in the program weren’t sure where they fit in the banking world and are continuing education or exploring options.

“One thing we adjusted in the second year is prioritizing students who are interested in getting a job right after the program ends,” he said.

Chris said HCC will continue to tweak the course to make improvements. One thing that will repeat is a bank tour. This year, students will tour the Sandy Spring Bank Operations Center.

Looking back, Amy says the program helped her in two ways.

“I met a lot of decision makers and got to know how they think,” she said. “I come from a different culture and some things are not the same. Now I know how things go on here, what people are looking for, how it all works.

“The other thing was that it was a refresher course in banking. Yes I worked in banking for 20 years, but for eight years I was away. It was really helpful. The things I love is that it taught us to be confident.”

Topics: Career Focus
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