Max Bangs of Bangor Savings Bank works with students in Portland Adult Education’s New Mainer Bank Teller Training program. Courtesy / Portland Adult Education

PORTLAND — Portland Adult Education has started a new program that it hopes can boost the careers of new Mainers by training them to be bank tellers.

Fifteen students, each with a background in financial services or customer services in their home countries, are enrolled in the New Maine Teller Program.

Mohammed Baqer, who said he previously worked on the Iraq Stock Exchange, said he signed up for help to re-enter the financial services field.

Members of Portland Adult Education’s New Mainer Teller Training Program research financial websites during a recent class. Courtesy / Portland Adult Education

“I would love to be a professional teller in the future to help our community,” Baqer said.

Other participants are from China, Jamaica, Zambia, Namibia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and Rwanda. Many have bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

“There is so much talent and expertise in the room. The employers are constantly commenting on the students’ depth of knowledge and insightful questions,” said Portland Adult Education Project Coordinator Bridget Kahn.

Local financial services companies were eager to be part of the program, which runs through April 3.

Troy Levesque, recruitment officer for Gorham Savings Bank, said as a community-based bank, participating in the program was a natural fit, especially in a tight labor market.

“This is another way to potentially bring some talent to the bank. These people have skills from where they came from that we could definitely benefit from if we can match them up with the right job,” he said.

Levesque and Jasmine Duran, manager of Gorham Savings Bank’s Marginal Way branch in Portland, will instruct the students this week on cash transactions. Levesque will return in April to help with mock interviews.

Infinity Federal Credit Union in Westbrook is participating to give students “a great foundation to become part of the workforce here in the Portland area in the banking industry,” said Maureen St. John, director of talent management at Infinity Federal Credit Union in Westbrook.

Infinity branch trainer Kim Garman said the program gives her and her colleagues the opportunity “to teach our passion and help build tomorrow’s financial leaders.”

Representatives from the banks and credit unions helped to design the program’s offerings, which includes courses dealing with being a teller, customer services, computer skills and business writing, basic math and cash handling, personal finances, and job search strategies.

The program is a joint venture between Portland Adult Education’s New Mainers Resource Center, ProsperityME, the Center for Financial Training & Education Alliance, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Bank of America, Bangor Savings Bank, cPort Credit Union, Gorham Savings Bank, Infinity Federal Credit Union and Norway Savings Bank.

Portland Chamber of Commerce CEO Quincy Hentzel said if the program is successful, similar programs for other industries might be created.

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