08 Sep

Bank of America and Social Venture Partners Unite with Housatonic and Norwalk Community Colleges and Health Care Providers to Train Workers Displaced by Coronavirus

Innovative Pilot Program Retrains Workers in Weeks for New Careers in Healthcare

Housatonic and Norwalk Community Colleges are pivoting to meet the needs of Connecticut’s workforce and today’s learners in this unprecedented training and education environment. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a surplus of displaced workers, the colleges are launching a no-cost, fast-track healthcare training pilot program thanks to a partnership between the colleges’ foundations, Bank of America and Social Venture Partners (SVP).

The goal of the innovative public-private partnership is to quickly retrain displaced or unemployed workers, particularly from the hospitality field, and arrange employment within hospitals for in-demand healthcare jobs. Upon training completion and passing licensure exams, students will be prepared to immediately begin in new job positions. Partnerships for clinical and hiring arrangements are with Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich, Bridgeport, Norwalk/Nuvance Health and Yale New Haven Hospitals.

“Amid the coronavirus, Bank of America committed support throughout southern Connecticut to help our most vulnerable populations. And we are proud to serve as a funding catalyst in addressing pressing needs and removing barriers to financial opportunity,” said Bill Tommins, Southern Connecticut market president for Bank of America. “We look forward to seeing our collaborative planning for innovative new workforce training solutions come to fruition. Bank of America is grateful for our partnership with Social Venture Partners, Career Resources and the Housatonic and Norwalk Community Colleges, which will provide employment opportunities to displaced workers in our region.”

Housatonic Community College (HCC) is offering an accelerated, reformatted Sterile Processing Technician (SPT) program. Learning will take place online and hands-on skills training will occur in the school’s state-of-the-art sterilization simulation lab on the HCC campus. At Norwalk Community College (NCC), the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) program condensed didactic learning and skills training from a 14-week traditional schedule to a 4-week accelerated plan with clinical rotation in partner hospitals. Instructive learning takes place online, interspersed with hands-on skills lab practice in NCC’s nursing skills lab as well as hands on clinical rotations at local hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.

Dr. Dwayne Smith, CEO of Housatonic Community College, says, “We are proud to announce this uniquely innovative public-private collaboration that effectively responds to the immediate needs of the workforce. Community Colleges like HCC and NCC are on the frontline of our communities, best positioned to rapidly reimagine training programs that positively impact lives throughout Fairfield County.”

“It’s a lot to learn in a little time, but the teachers are great,” said Pamela Aquino, a student in NCC’s pilot program and a former owner of a housekeeping business based in Bridgeport. “Because of Covid, everything went downhill, a lot of clients just stopped. This program came at the right time. I wanted to do the CNA program and I thought, ‘let me try.’ I’m going to start all over, and it’s going to be a whole new life.” Fifteen students graduated from NCC’s Certified Nurse Aide program last week after completing their coursework and clinical rotations. “The program an impressive 83% graduation rate, higher than previous non-accelerated classes,” said Dr. Kristina Testa-Buzzee, Chief Regional Workforce Development Officer for Connecticut Community Colleges Shoreline West Region.

In response to employer demand, the CNA and SPT training programs were chosen specifically for their growth potential. As baby-boomers age, healthcare workers will be needed to help care for an increasing number of older patients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for both nursing assistants and sterile processing technicians is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations.

Hospitality industry workers were targeted for the pilot program because of the soft skills they already possess, such as attention to detail, teamwork and customer service. A total of thirty students were selected for the program by Career Resources, Inc, a workforce development nonprofit in Bridgeport, with qualifying candidates matched to their area of healthcare interest. Scott Wilderman, president and CEO of Career Resources, said “Thanks to Bank of America and SVP, this pilot offers critical skills training at the optimum time for those wishing to transition to a career in healthcare. The community college system was responsive to in demand jobs and the employer community stepped up to hire nearly all of the graduates. A perfect public-private partnership!”

To safeguard the investment in students, the responsive program provides all learners with wrap-around supports, including weekly, personalized assistance from an achievement coach who provides career counseling. Emergency funds for sudden, unforeseen financial hardships that may interfere with program completion are also available. “We have a long history of creating programs that are uniquely designed to meet the needs of our community by pairing our high-quality, affordable community college education with local employment opportunities,” said Carrie Bernier, Executive Director of the Norwalk Community College Foundation.

Bernie Park, a partner with Social Venture Partners, a co-funder of this pilot, said, "We are excited to partner with Bank of America, employers, colleges, and nonprofits on this exciting initiative to build new career pathways in healthcare, for displaced people and other marginalized populations. We are also happy to see this pilot program expand statewide in collaboration with the Governor's Workforce Council."

During this unprecedented time, collaborations between businesses, educators and employers are an important path for creating real opportunities to quickly reskill displaced workers for in-demand careers. To discuss additional partnership opportunities, contact HCC Foundation Executive Director Kristy Jelenik at (Bridgeport) or NCC Foundation Executive Director Carrie Bernier at (Norwalk).

About Housatonic Community College Foundation
Founded in 1990 by a team of business and arts leaders from the greater Bridgeport community, the HCC Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that solicits, secures and manages contributions from the private sector through individuals, corporations and foundations for the benefit of HCC. The HCC Foundation distributes resources in the form of full and partial scholarships to students with proven academic performance and demonstrated financial need.

About Norwalk Community College Foundation
The Norwalk Community College Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1965, that supports expanding access to affordable, quality higher education, the development of a productive workforce, and contributing to the knowledge and well-being of our community by raising funds for Norwalk Community College. The Foundation works with individuals, major corporations and local organizations to develop new initiatives and educational partnerships to inspire and engage our community to share talents and resources. With assistance from generous donors, the NCC Foundation provides $3 million annually in scholarships, faculty and program support, and student success initiatives.

About Bank of America
At Bank of America, we’re guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better, through the power of every connection. We’re delivering on this through responsible growth with a focus on our environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership. ESG is embedded across our eight lines of business and reflects how we help fuel the global economy, build trust and credibility, and represent a company that people want to work for, invest in and do business with. It’s demonstrated in the inclusive and supportive workplace we create for our employees, the responsible products and services we offer our clients, and the impact we make around the world in helping local economies thrive. An important part of this work is forming strong partnerships with nonprofits and advocacy groups, such as community, consumer and environmental organizations, to bring together our collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. Learn more at about.bankofamerica.com, and connect with us on Twitter (@BofA_News).

Bank of America has delivered more than $2 billion in philanthropic investments since 2009, with approximately $250 million in 2019 alone. In April 2019, the company announced a $5 billion Bank of America Community Homeownership Commitment™ to benefit low- and moderate-income homebuyers and communities across the U.S. over the next five years. Also in 2019, Bank of America Community Development Banking provided a record $4.88 billion in loans, tax credit equity investments and other real estate development solutions. Between 2005 and 2019, Bank of America financed 202,800 affordable housing units. To meet the unique needs of its 12 million small business owners, the company provides advice, solutions and dedicated support. Bank of America maintained its position as the nation’s top small business lender at the end of 2019, with $38.9 billion in total outstanding small business loan balances (defined as business loans in original amounts of $1 million and under), up 7% year over year.

For more Bank of America news, including dividend announcements and other important information, visit the Bank of America newsroom and register for news email alerts.

About Social Venture Partners

Social Venture Partners Connecticut (SVP) is an engaged community of Partners, leveraging time and resources to advance equitable solutions for closing Connecticut's opportunity gap. SVP has over 100 of its Partners working to scale and support the capacity building of some of the leading nonprofits and government agencies in education and workforce development through multi-year grants and pro bono strategic consulting. SVP is also supporting the Governor's Workforce Council in developing a state-wide workforce development strategy and is building job training programs with employers, colleges, workforce boards, and nonprofits involved in workforce development. SVP has strategic partnerships with Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven. Learn more at socialventurepartners.org/Connecticut.

Caption For Photo Above: Sterile Processing Technician students learn hands-on skills at HCC’s state-of-the-art sterilization simulation lab.

CNA Students

Caption For Photo Right: Socially-distant CNA students donning PPE learn CPR and practice abdominal thrusts on imaginary patients at NCC.


Sterile Processing Technician students learn hands-on skills at HCC’s state-of-the-art sterilization simulation lab

Caption For Photo Right: Sterile Processing Technician students learn hands-on skills at HCC’s state-of-the-art sterilization simulation lab.


CNA Students

Caption For Photo Right: Socially-distant CNA students donning PPE learn CPR and practice abdominal thrusts on imaginary patients at NCC.