Banking and Financial Reps Offer Advice

The Community Partnerships Committee, one of the college committees formed for MiddleStates and Strategic Planning initiatives, hosted a breakfast and focus group on May 4 for invited members of the banking and financial services industries. The goal of the meeting was to generate a dialogue with these organizations to help Mercer be more responsive to the industries’ needs.

The guests were extremely positive about the college’s impact in the county, particularly with regard to noncredit programs. All were familiar with Mercer to some degree, either through credit and noncredit courses, friends or colleagues, dealings with the Small Business Development Center and Placement Office, or service on an advisory commission.

Assessing their workforce needs, they observed that their older workers tended to have the required social and communication skills, but often lagged behind in technical know-how. Younger workers are technologically skilled, but lack customer service skills and have difficulty “thinking outside the box” or going beyond their job description.

Among their suggestions were that Mercer offer certification courses to prepare students for state exams such as Certified Financial Planner, Certified Municipal Financial Officer, Certified Tax Collector, etc., and job readiness workshops for students entering the workplace for the first time. Mercer is seen as perfectly situated geographically in the center of the county and the center of the state to offer certification programs, even on a statewide basis.

They considered a generalized two-year financial services degree worthwhile, with options including: banking, securities, insurance, and sales/marketing. For banking, a focus on general sales and customer service skills was recommended. They also encouraged developing 2 + 2 articulation agreements with New Jersey four-year schools, especially where students could take advanced courses at Mercer. (Mercer recently signed its first such agreement, giving MCCC Business and Hospitality students an opportunity to complete their bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University at Mercer.)

Traditional internships were not of interest to the group because of customer privacy issues, but they noted that many banks hire extra support staff in the summer in full-time, short-term positions.

The Community Partnerships Committee wishes to build on the success of this first outreach activity and is considering hosting focus groups with non-profit and government agencies, and parent-teacher organizations in the coming year.

To learn more or to make suggestions for the future, contact committee members who participated in the focus group: Kay Eaton, chair, Bob Estok, Lorna Strang, Mark McCormick, Nunzio Cernero, Rose Nini, Beverly Richardson or Emmaline Marks.