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PGCC program aims to accelerate access to professional credentials

Bank of America is contributing $100,000 to Prince George’s Community College to support an initiative that allows county residents to quickly acquire credentials for in-demand, livable-wage careers through short-term programs called “micro-pathways.”  

PGCC began developing their micro-pathways as a part of the Community College Growth Engine Fund, a program hosted by Washington, D.C.-based Education Design Lab, of which PGCC was one of six schools included in the original cohort. The fund launched in September 2020 amid mass layoffs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The community college eventually launched the programs this past October, allowing an inaugural class of about 25 students to study to either be a medical administrative assistant, an information technology specialist or a hospitality leader. All three programs are in fields that are high in demand in the Washington metropolitan area 

Each program allows its learners to earn a number of different, relevant credentials over a 12-month period. Those participating in the hospitality program, for example, will receive credentials in hospitality management, sales and marketing, hospitality revenue management and hospitality supervision. They also allow students to train in relevant soft skills, like empathy and problem solving. 

The program also aims to connect students directly with employers, which is where Bank of America’s contribution comes in. A bulk of the $100,000 grant will be used to hire someone dedicated to reaching out to companies in the area to connect them with students for internships, networking and potentially finding a job after completing the program.  

“Within our micro-pathways, part of our design includes a very robust employer engagement piece,” said June Evans, director of PGCC’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  

Bank of America’s relationship with PGCC started over a decade ago, when the community college became the first so-called “middle college” — a community college that allows students to study for their high school diploma and their associate’s degree in tandem — in Maryland.  

“Bank of America has been a longtime partner of the college. They’ve always been there for us when we’ve embarked on innovative endeavors,” said Brenda Mitchell, PGCC’s executive director of institutional advancement. 

Mitchell said that Bank of America signed onto the project because it will be a “strategic endeavor” for the region, benefiting both individuals looking for higher-paying work and employers struggling to find qualified candidates. 

“One way to improve lives is to train people for the jobs employers have right now,” said Larry Di Rita, president of Bank of America Greater Washington, D.C., in a press release. “Prince George’s Community College has a terrific plan to develop a stronger, better-trained workforce in Prince George’s County, and we are happy to partner with the PGCC team.” 

Evans expects the program to grow quickly, with twice or even three times as many students enrolling in its second class, slated to start next October. She also sees the program introducing more micro-pathways based on participant feedback; some students, for example, are already asking about clinical certifications and credentials to supplement the medical administrative assistant program. 

“This is a pilot, and so the college is using this an opportunity to test out the new way of delivering education,” she said.