You won’t find Citibank branches in Northern Kentucky and Southern Ohio, but it’s one of the most engaged financial services companies in the region in workforce development. Citi employs about 2,300 at its customer contact center in Florence, Kentucky, and is a key funder of a work-based learning platform called MyCareerE3 — part of GROW NKY (Growing Regional Outcomes Through Workforce), a strategic workforce collective backboned by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. MyCareerE3 is a collaborative project of GROW NKY’s College and Career Readiness pillar (P2) partners led by the NKY Cooperative for Educational Services (NKCES) and a volunteer project team instrumental in making the platform a reality.
MyCareerE3 is a new initiative, but Citi has been engaged with schools in the region for years in multiple ways. “We spend a lot of time helping educate in the area of financial literacy from as early as elementary age all the way through high school,” says Michael Hall, Senior Vice President at Citi, which was an early investor in GROW NKY.
Why invest in MyCareerE3?
“Partly it’s brand recognition for us — we don’t have branches here, but we’re one of the top employers in the region,” says Hall. “The other part is that we want to make sure that people coming in the door are career-minded individuals. Although we are primarily a customer contact center, Citi offers numerous career paths and opportunities for our employees. The goal is to educate our youth about the importance of financial literacy. If it plants a seed that they then consider Citi as a potential employer, we also want them to be familiar with financial products for our own pipelines.” Citi’s two-building campus houses nearly 30 business lines, “so the career possibilities are endless,” notes Hall.
A Portal to Opportunity
The launch of MyCareerE3 initially will be focused on 9th through 12th grade students at 18 area high schools in the region, says Amanda Johannemann, Director, Talent Strategies, at the Northern Kentucky Chamber. “If a company is looking to connect with a student population so they can learn more about a career pathway, this tool will allow access and create equity among all students. The range of students being served is wide, and MyCareerE3 is a centralized platform where all kinds of work-based learning opportunities can be housed for them. Citi is one of the community partners that has long been very supportive of work in Northern Kentucky in the area of talent initiatives. Partners like Citi are critical to making sure we can design something like this.”
Employers and community partners will create profiles on MyCareerE3, and students and their guidance counselors will learn about opportunities they’re interested in applying for. Online tours of companies and other features are also planned for the platform to demonstrate the full continuum of work-based learning.
Meanwhile, Citi has several programs aimed at investing in the community’s youth, not only in terms of financial literacy, but also career and college readiness. “We partner with over 15 area high schools and/or civic organizations in both Kentucky and Ohio,” says Niki Lunsford, Citi’s Vice President, Communication and Public Affairs. “One of our longest sustaining programs is Future Focus. What was originally designed as a recruiting tool has now become a way to build relationships with high school students, namely juniors and seniors, to educate them and provide tools that will help prepare them for life after high school. While the recruitment piece is an added bonus, we are deeply committed to investing in our future workforce. Our Future Focus program touches on a variety of topics, including workplace professionalism, resume writing, interviewing, the importance of networking, building your personal brand and financial literacy.
“Many of the schools we work with have expressed appreciation for this program, especially because their current curriculum doesn’t include any focus on financial literacy,” notes Lunsford. “Through this program, we are interacting with students, having very real and open conversations about using credit wisely, impacts of not having a 401k, why it is important to budget and save, the list goes on. Being such a big part of the community from an employment perspective and from a volunteering and financial investment standpoint, this program was designed to amplify that.” Students at the participating schools also visit Citi to meet with division heads, human resources and others to learn first-hand about working in financial services.
Citi also has partnerships with Junior Achievement and other regional organizations focused on financial literacy. One program targeting third through fifth graders is called Citi LIFE — Leaders Investing in Financial Education. “Students are given the opportunity to run their own business for about two hours and learn numerous things, such as what it means to make a profit, how reinvesting capital into other capital resources can lead to being more productive,” Lunsford explains. “The success and sustainability of initiatives like Future Focus and Citi LIFE rely heavily on volunteers. For Citi, it’s more than just a financial investment, we want to invest time and sweat equity as well. We want to not only talk the talk but walk the walk. So we lean into our employees to volunteer with these programs, and we’re incredibly proud of the level of engagement. It wouldn’t be possible without their support.”