Over the past decade, local Asheville residents have experienced steady wage and job growth, and Buncombe County has seen its median household income rise to its highest level this century. For a variety of reasons those gains have not been shared equally, and inequality – Asheville’s nearly 14% poverty rate exceeds than the national average1– has continued to be a persistent problem. Yet local employers seeking skilled healthcare workers, educators and entry-level manufacturing workers face a shortage of qualified candidates.
The Skills Training Employment Program (STEP), a partnership between Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services, provides skills training to local residents and connects qualified candidates to open jobs. Bank of America funds nearly half of the STEP program directly through grants.
The support allows STEP to help low-income students aged 16 and over continue their education, develop job skills, earn certifications and pay for books and class materials. Courses include English language proficiency, literacy and numeracy and occupational training, and students can take two-year degree-path curriculum classes. One-on-one case management is also available. The STEP Career Resource Center also offers training in career essentials like computer basics, resume writing and interviewing, as well as employer connections.
STEP is an important initiative for Buncombe County, helping remove educational and employment barriers to high-quality jobs and giving locals the opportunity to share in the area’s broader gains.
The support for the Skills Training Employment Program is an example of Bank of America’s commitment to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local neighborhoods around the country. From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s biggest challenges.