Why Citizens is championing the cause of workforce development in N.J.

O’Connell, bank’s metro market executive, said its recent $340,000 commitment will have great impact lifting communities

The $140,000 donation to LISC of Greater Newark will be used to help a pilot program that aims to close the digital divide in underserved communities – helping residents gain the skills they need for tech-based jobs.

The $100,000 grant to the Urban League of Essex County will help train workers for clean energy jobs.

The $50,000 award to Per Scholas – works on upskilling. And the $50,000 gift to Year Up New Jersey will provide training in IT and software development.

Like all institutions looking to give back, Citizens Bank had a lot of initiatives it could support – the fact that it chose four nonprofits connected to workforce development was not a coincidence.

Rebecca O’Connell, the New York City metro market executive for Citizens Bank, said workforce development is where the bank felt it could have great impact.

“We want to listen to our neighbors; we want to understand the communities that we’re working in, hear their voices and put our support behind them,” she said. “Through a series of conversations, workforce development comes up as the No. 1 challenge across the markets and in the communities that we work in every day.

“So, it has become extremely important to us, as it always has been.”

The donations – an incredible $340,000 in total – come from both the Citizens Charitable Foundation and the Citizens Philanthropic Foundation.

And while these four were targeted toward the Newark and North Jersey areas – key markets for Citizens – O’Connell said the bank is eager to have a statewide presence, too.

Citizens, which recently completed its acquisition of Investors Bank, has a presence throughout New Jersey.

“As we continue to spread throughout New Jersey, we’re always looking to partner with organizations across that footprint in and of itself,” she said.

The bank, she said, wants to work not for profit organizations that serve communities that historically have had residents looking for support to fill the workforce development gap.

“We thrive when our communities thrive,” she said. “So, partnering with organizations that can help focus on low- and moderate-income individuals to help them with the tools that they need to compete for jobs is something that we stand by every day. It is at the heart of what we say is the Citizens credo.”

O’Connell said Citizens’ relationship with the Devils and Giants has helped it get its brand name out there – but nothing counts as much as actually being in the community. That has become a primary focus.

“The transition is going extremely well,” she said. “Investors had a very loyal brand, very credible brand and a large reaching brand, which certainly helped.

“Being able to leverage the extended Citizens platform with client integration and colleague integration across the full Citizens platform is great. “We have everybody out there on the street being ambassadors for Citizens.”

Here’s a closer look at the bank’s four recent donations:

· $140,000 to LISC Greater Newark, part of a $1.25 million grant to LISC from the Citizens Charitable Foundation, that will be used to fuel digital inclusion in historically marginalized communities, helping residents build the skills they need to compete for jobs. The $1.25 million grant builds on a pilot program, also supported by the bank, that tested approaches to bridging the digital skills gap through LISC Financial Opportunity Centers. It will help launch and expand digital services that prepare people for growth industries, including the information technology field.

· $100,000 from the Citizens Philanthropic Foundation to support the Urban League of Essex County’s Clean Energy Job Program, a partnership with Public Service Electric & Gas to train and place individuals in clean energy jobs.

· $50,000 from the Citizens Philanthropic Foundation to Per Scholas, benefitting the Per Scholas Alumni Upskilling program, with a focus on providing continued support to program alumni to help them remain on a successful path and further advance in their careers in the rapidly evolving tech world.

· $50,000 from the Citizens Philanthropic Foundation to Year Up New Jersey to support its skills-based job training pathways program. This will provide much-needed information technology job training and software development, as well as business operations, sales and customer support. This is part of the bank’s larger commitment of $150,000 to Year Up, and will expand its program support into both New Jersey and Philadelphia.