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St. Petersburg College and BayFirst National Bank are collaborating to address the growing demand for financial literacy that touches every career, as well as the dire need to create a talent pipeline for the sector. 
The two organizations, which have been in discussions for nearly a year, plan to launch a “Growing in Financial Services” certification program. The program will roll out this month to provide hands-on training to students and others interested in starting or advancing their careers in the financial services sector and also educate non-traditional finance students about the foundations of banking. 
“One of the biggest concerns we’ve talked about was the low number of non-traditional individuals who can work in banking and the challenges of trying to attract minorities. It’s not only about the careers, but people also need to understand what it’s like doing business with banks,” BayFirst Community Engagement Officer Valerie Fulbright told the St. Pete Catalyst. 
The new program will offer separate courses in three core areas of banking: Personal banking, teller line production, and business banking. 
More on the core tracks participants can select from: 
“The instructors are actual professionals in the space that can provide that real first-hand knowledge,” said Chris Cain, who helps lead SPC’s workforce education programs and teaches engineering technology. “This is the first certification program like this [at SPC]. This is a great foundation we can build off from in an economic standpoint. Whether it’s science, engineering or another area, people will need to learn the component of financial responsibility.” 
The curriculum for each track, which was curated by BayFirst, will be presented in a six-week course. The first, focused on personal banking, begins Oct. 25.
“We want people to feel comfortable walking into a bank with confidence knowing how they operate,” Fulbright said. 
At the end of the program, a networking event will be held at the downtown SPC campus where bankers and others in the sector will meet with students. 
“This gives BayFirst an opportunity to get to connect with the pool of candidates while also introducing them to other employers in the area,” Fulbright said.
Growing in Financial Services is open to all SPC students and the public. Participants must hold a high school diploma or GED. Each course is a hybrid model with one online and one in-person class per week that meets every Tuesday and Thursday, totaling 12 classes. 
Courses will be offered at SPC’s downtown campus. Each course/track is $1,200. Participants may qualify for a training voucher through CareerSource Pinellas to complete the program at no cost, according to SPC and BayFirst. 
Fulbright said BayFirst is looking for donors to help cover the costs for students. Cain said there are also grants and scholarships available. 
The initial classes would start will a minimum of six students, Cain said. 
The news of the program comes as St. Petersburg-based BayFirst Financial Corp. (NASDAQ: BAFN), the parent company of BayFirst National Bank, announced last month that would discontinue its nationwide network of residential mortgage loan production offices. As a result, BayFirst is closing its Residential Mortgage Division Clearwater facility, but it will continue to originate residential loans in the Tampa Bay markets it serves. 
The discontinuation of the LPOs will not affect the programming for the courses. 
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