Meet Lisa, Blaise and Regine.
by Thomas P. Graham IV
Graham is the executive director of The Bookkeeping Center, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides accounting training to the low-income and unemployed in New York City.
Accounting skills training is good for anyone simply because no one is exempt from dealing with finances, personal or otherwise. Every adult has to manage his or her finances and every business, no matter the industry, needs competent individuals to handle its books.
In fact, learning these important skills can also change a person’s life for the better. I know this to be true because I see the transformative impact of this knowledge every day.
Our mission is to empower talented individuals to find meaningful employment by providing affordable specialized financial training, job readiness assistance, and work experience. We do this through our key program, DiscoverBookkeeping, which presents an opportunity for many individuals to access a better quality of life.
One such story is that of “Lisa” who used her knowledge of basic accounting principles to remain connected to her greatest passion, the arts. When Lisa came to us, she was unemployed. Her background was in classical music and she wanted to stay connected to the arts; but, she realized that she needed a ‘recession-proof’ job. Lisa found TBKC through the New York State Department of Labor’s list of courses and, after speaking with our director of programs, decided that DiscoverBookkeeping was the solution to her needs. This training allowed Lisa to completely redefine her life. Today, she is performing bookkeeping work for a large arts organization. She also has a few of her own bookkeeping clients and is using this skill set to maintain a balanced and productive life.
Whereas Lisa was new to this skill set, some individuals come to us because they need help improving their existing knowledge base of accounting. For instance, Blaise came to us with a solid background in accounting from his native country of Cameroon. When seeking employment in America, he had difficulty discussing accounting principles with interviewers. By successfully completing our program, Blaise was equipped with accurate terminology, real-world case studies, and hands-on experience in computerized accounting software. Since completing our program, Blaise has continued to develop his professional bookkeeping experience and is currently auditing inventory for a large retail store. Blaise created a future that was perhaps not otherwise possible without the proper training in the principles of accounting. Blaise is now on his way to obtaining an accounting degree and becoming a CPA.
Blaise is among the 44% of recent immigrants that we serve, but for some immigrants the problem they face is access to affordable, skills-based training solutions. Regine, a native of Burkina Faso, had dreams of working in the nonprofit, education sector. Despite having a master’s degree in literature and languages from her native land, Regine had trouble finding work in America. As she supported herself with various entry-level positions, including time as a purchasing clerk, she realized that she needed something else to access her dreams. She lacked formal training but could not afford traditional forms of education. Regine decided to enroll in our program. Here she discovered a passion for bookkeeping and accounting. She pursued this interest, later taking additional courses at Lehman College, and found meaningful work in the nonprofit sector for the United Nations in New York.
The short-term impact we have had on the lives of these individuals is remarkable. However, the ultimate result of our work has a long-term affect for both these individuals and the community they live in. First, an accounting skill set can lead to self-sustaining wages, which can also lead to a family-supporting wage level as the individual builds experience. Second, we address key issues that affect our community, such as unemployment and access to opportunities for underserved populations.
TBKC is also helping to solve the middle-skill jobs gap in New York State. Middle-skill jobs require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree and there is a shortage of these workers in our community.
“New York has been experiencing a structural shortage of middle-skill workers. In 2009, about 46 percent of all jobs were classified as middle-skill, but only 39 percent of New York workers had the education and training required to fill those positions…This means that thousands of well-paid and rewarding jobs were going unfilled in the state, in industries that are and will be essential to New York’s economic portfolio.” – Skills2Compete-New York campaign, New York’s Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs, March 2011.
Furthermore, these worker shortages “could put the state at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive regional, national, and global context.” – Skills2Compete-New York campaign, Answering the Middle-Skills Challenge, March 2011.
Our work is an integral part of a greater workforce solution for this region. We believe strongly in improving the local workforce by training middle-skill workers. Furthermore, we believe that providing this opportunity to disadvantaged communities will ultimately improve the vitality of the New York City economy.
TBKC is doing its part to create positive change for individuals, the local workforce, and the city’s economic recovery; and, it all begins with basic training in the principles of accounting. We imagine that you value your accounting skills and we hope that you understand that this knowledge can improve the lives of disadvantaged individuals everywhere.