AKRON, Ohio- The Akron Public School District is taking a unique approach to begin meeting the growing demand for workers in the financial sector of Northeast Ohio. And they're doing it with the help of KeyBank and part of a half million dollar grant that was used to create a mock bank inside of a school.
- First year of program which allow 9-12 grades to participate currently
- Students run the financial services lab (i.e. mock bank), while others earn KeyCash and make banking transactions
- Seniors will look to land internships in their last semester of school
Counting KeyCash, 17-year-old Zanetta Walker hands over what she's earned to the teller to make a deposit. The teller happens to be one of her peers who helps to run the bank. They're both a part of the KeyBank Academy Finance Pathway at East Community Learning Center, where they're learning financial literacy and banking skills in a financial literacy lab. When asked about how saving has been going, Zanetta Walker said, "I would say I earned probably about one hundred...even though that's pretty sad....Cause it's not as much as I thought it would be. Cause I mean like you really have to work hard for it.”
Walker is just one of 80 students in the new program this year getting prepared for entry level, in demand, high paying jobs in Northeast Ohio that are currently open in the financial sector.
The program has already changed her perspective about money. She said, "I think about like how much harder it would be for my parents and like having to withdraw a lot of money for a lot of different things and you know paying utilities and all of that."
For students like Janiyah Carter, she's not only building financial skills for the real world, but people skills, especially when technology goes down and there are long lines of people. She said, " So sometimes when it doesn't connect..it's just like hard because it gets busy in the bank. So, I have to try to manage everybody coming in and getting the system to work."
But as soon as students like Zanetta Walker leave the bank, they often head to the school store, use their KeyCard. For students who have deposited money, their card is filled with KeyCash that's been earned through things like good attendance or being on time for class. Walker's earnings give her the chance to decide what she'll spend or keep. Usually she buys snacks; but if she wants she can buy tickets to prom and other events outside of school.
Ultimately, the whole experience puts the students in the driver's seat of their education and puts them light years ahead. So when it's time to graduate, they'll not only have real life skills, but be able to take one of the many jobs Ohio has to offer, too.
So far school officials say students have become more motivated than ever to share the financial literacy skills they're learning with their parents and others. While the program is still new, the goal is for students in the Finance Pathway to land internships in their senior year of high school and be college or career ready when they finish. As of last year, over 15 thousand jobs in finance were posted for Northeast Ohio alone.