Lewiston, Maine is the heart of Androscoggin Bank. It also happens to be home for many of Maine’s immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeking families. For many of these families the journeys they have taken to realize a safe home and space in our community is heart wrenching. Beyond that, once here they find themselves adapting to a new language, new cultural challenges, attempting to find secure and stable employment, and navigating a new reality – all while missing their original home. Our new neighbors face hardships that few of us could ever fathom. Most of us will never comprehend or experience that level of hardship and bravery in our entire lives.
And, our newest community members and friends arrive teeming with optimism, energy and aspirations. They are here to build a legacy for their families and their new communities, in a place where the promise exists that we can be anything we set our minds and our hearts to. In the past few years alone, we have listened to hundreds of stories about new Mainers quickly making a difference, from starting new businesses to being elected to public service positions. Time and time again we are amazed at this willingness to take leaps and learn, all in the face of adversity.
Because of this, we felt compelled to find a solution which would highlight and empower even more new Mainers. Our Mission, Vision and Values drive us every day to reimagine what a bank can be and how we can make a difference and our recent work partnership with Lewiston Adult Ed to create Lewiston’s first Today’s Teller Academy exemplifies this effort.
The program’s goal is to prepare students who have a primary language other than English, for well-paying and advancement rich careers in banking in the Lewiston/Auburn region. We have been working in collaboration with LAE since March of 2022, and we robustly funded the first session to get the program underway.
About The Program
The Today’s Teller Academy is designed for students who meet specific language, reading and math competencies, and who have a background in banking, finance, or customer service in their home countries. With a goal of preparing these students to be candidates for employment, the 14-week course includes the Today’s Teller curriculum– as well as lessons on customer service, digital literacy and job search strategies.
“Through the use of the curriculum, students learned a great overview of the American banking system that will help them in both their personal and professional lives” said Today’s Teller Instructor, Fatma Saad. “The collaboration with AB was invaluable because it gave the students real world experience and [they] could ask bank personnel specific questions about banking procedures and working in a bank”.
Our most recent graduating class featured six students from South Africa, Angola and Kenya. In addition to English, the students spoke a variety of languages, including: Xhosa, Lingala, Somali, Swahili and Portuguese and had a variety of professional experience.
While they started all the way back in February of 2023, the Bank’s involvement with this cohort started in mid-March. Our lessons, led by Androscoggin Bank employees, were centered on job search strategies, aspects of interviewing, and the process of creating a resume. Arguably the most exciting day was when each student individually visited our branch team and see what it was like “behind the line”. On the final day of the program, students put their newly found knowledge to the test as we conducted mock interviews along with three other local financial institutions.
After passing their final exam, graduating students were all given Today’s Teller and Work Ready certificates from LAE. At the same ceremony, LAE awarded the Bank with their Community Partner Award for our work on the program.
Nonetheless, the most fulfilling part of this journey was when students Bongi Sanduku and Lukoki Kalukembi joined our AB team as Client Service Representatives. It is an exceptional feeling for our entire team to have delivered on our goal of providing tangible career opportunities to our students.
Our new colleagues have been here for over six months are loving their official roles as well. When asked what his favorite part about working at AB was, Lukoki responded, “I would say the connection and how people interact. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of the company or the CSR in the branch. The way that people talk is so nice and that is truly amazing. People support each other to resolve any kind of issue and I appreciate it so much. Working at a bigger bank was more of a “take care of my department” mindset; here, we are a small group that knows each other well and can help each other at any time”.
“Speaking on the course itself, Lukoki added that, “First, being an immigrant here in the United States and to have these opportunities to learn is a pretty nice. As an immigrant, I see a lot of friends that have the first option of going to the factory, no matter what skill they have; they start working to pay bills. With this opportunity and training, you know you will build some skills and be able to go to the market and find a job in banking. It is a huge advantage for someone to take this on”.
We are so proud of the quick progress this program has made and cannot wait to see how it continues to expand. The second session with ten new, deeply engaged students, just kicked off and five financial institutions are now involved. Ultimately, this partnership has the potential to continue recognizing, supporting and developing banking talent throughout the LA community, with unprecedented access and opportunities. It is abundantly clear that our newest Mainers have tremendous skillsets and bring so much value, which can be applied at a variety of businesses, including ours.