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Cara and BMO Harris Bank launch workforce development initiative

Collaboration creates career path in banking, removes barriers to employment in Austin, Little Village, and other Chicago communities.

Cara Chicago and BMO Harris are partnering on a workforce development program co-created to remove barriers to employment and increase access to careers in banking and finance. The two organizations extended job offers to a cohort of 12 Chicago job seekers following their inaugural hiring event, held virtually on September 16, 2020.

The program, entitled BMORE, represents a new model for both Cara and BMO in which the organizations collaborated to recruit, train, and place individuals into customer service roles at the Chicago-based bank. Cara and BMO co-created each step of the program from recruitment through onboarding to support the new team members. In addition, the Customer Experience Representative (CER) job description was workshopped with Cara job seekers to better appeal to local, diverse talent.

Newly hired CERs will assist customers while building meaningful partnerships, as well as support branch operations and serve as critical brand ambassadors for BMO.

Recruitment for the BMORE program focused primarily on the Austin and Little Village neighborhoods in support of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative, which is designed to address economic disparity in key neighborhoods across the city, but the roles were open to all Cara participants. Because transportation is often a barrier to employment, candidates were considered for roles at BMO branches that are easily accessible by public transportation. Community partners Austin Coming Together, Latinos Progresando and Instituto del Progreso Latino collaborated on recruitment for the program in Austin and Little Village.

Click here to learn more about how you could join Cara.

“We started building the BMORE program in 2019 to deepen our long-term connection with the communities we serve and to remove barriers to inclusion,” said Ernie (Erminia) Johannson, BMO’s group head of North American Personal and Business Banking. “That thinking inspired this collaboration with Cara – creating a pathway for people with barriers to employment to have access to a career in financial services. We’re excited to bring this first cohort into the BMO family and look forward to scaling the program in the future.”

Leveraging nearly 30 years of workforce development experience, Cara provided candidates with work readiness training, screening and skills assessment. Cara places people experiencing poverty and homelessness into nearly 1,000 jobs each year. The average one-year, same-firm retention rate for a Cara placement across all industries is approximately 70 percent.

“We are extremely proud to partner with our friends at BMO Harris for this unique, but critical program,” said Joe Mutuc, Cara’s chief business development officer. “Our mission is to unlock the power and purpose within our communities and ourselves to achieve real and lasting success, and a big component of that is working with employers, like BMO, to recognize the untapped workforce talent across our city and creating equitable opportunities for everyone. Our hope with this initiative is that it will inspire other companies to assess and evaluate their own hiring practices.”

In October, the new BMO CERs will begin their paid learning and development program before their official start date in November.

Due to COVID-19, the BMORE program needed to quickly adapt to the new environment. BMO and Cara redoubled their commitment to the program just as it was kicking off to ensure it could go forward. Recruiting, training, hiring, onboarding and learning will take place virtually during the pandemic. The team also broadened recruitment efforts to include Cara alumni whose employment was impacted by COVID-19. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the program exceeded its goal of extending 10 job offers for its inaugural cohort.

Interested in joining Cara to be considered for a future BMORE cohort? Click here to learn how you can get started!