Vegas News

CSN non-degree certificate program will widen banking talent pool

Nevada’s banking community has teamed with the College of Southern Nevada to offer an online, non-degree banking certificate program, debuting in January at the start of the spring semester.

Phyllis Gurgevich, president and CEO of the Nevada Banking Association, said the certificate, which consists of four core classes—bank management; fundamentals of corporate finance; financial institutions, markets and money; and accounting—will typically take about a year for students to complete.

“These courses are really for employees and perspective employees who aren’t finance majors,” Gurgevich said. “These are people who typically aren’t in roles that will require a degree in finance or higher education in the area of accounting. Still, if you’re working in the industry, it’s important to understand the basics—how banks operate, how loans are structured, things like that.”

Gurgevich said members of the association wanted to create something that could lead to the establishment of another talent “pipeline” for banks, something different than a four-year finance degree that an institution like UNLV would offer.

“A lot of times, students don’t think of banking as a viable career,” Gurgevich said. “We wanted to promote the career path as something that is viable.”

Gurgevich said it wasn’t initially clear how such a certificate program would be implemented.

The association’s members considered teaching courses on their own, without the help of an educational institution, but they instead zeroed in on what CSN and accounting instructor Michael Myers could offer. Myers has a background in the private sector in investment banking.

“I designed the program to be a kind of soup-to-nuts understanding of what’s going on in the banking industry,” Myers said.

Traditionally, Myers said, banks have been places that attract employees from different types of backgrounds.

“Banks have English majors, history majors, teachers, people who just have high school diplomas or even GEDs,” Myers said. “A lot of times, people who haven’t pushed themselves in life are actually very smart people. This can be a way for them to get that extra piece of education that could help them and help the industry.”

For many reasons—including the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic—companies in many industries have struggled to find and retain employees. In an October research paper, Goldman Sachs strategists wrote that labor market tightness could be a challenge “for many companies for years.”

That means it could be as important as ever for companies to nurture an employment base.

“Given the kind of growth we’re having in Nevada, it’s likely that banking will be a growing industry here for years to come,” Myers said.

James York, founding principal, president and CEO of Valley Bank of Nevada, helped with the program’s framework. He joined the banking industry nearly 40 years ago, having received a non-degree certificate through a similar, now-defunct program.

A former chairman of the Nevada Banking Association, York holds a two-year degree from CSN and a finance degree from UNLV.

“As bankers, we have tellers and new accounts specialists and customer service people who don’t have the general knowledge of the different facets of banking,” York said. “I’m looking forward to putting some of my entry-level employees through this program.”

Any employee who takes the initiative to get the certificate might possibly gain an advantage were they to come up for a promotion, York said

“For us as an industry, this will mean a lot,” York said. “It’s something more than just having people shadow and receive over-the-shoulder training. Being a graduate of both CSN and UNLV, I really wanted to get our local colleges involved. This will, I think, be a great marriage. It’s going to be a nice addition for our industry.”

Along with the four core classes, students within the certificate program can also pursue “specialty” areas, which could include courses on wealth management and cybersecurity.

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