Commodore Perry FCU leverages CDFI grant to fill worker skill gap

Getting expert assistance with the application process was helpful.

Commodore Perry Federal Credit Union CEO Mike Barr says he recognized a significant need in the communities the credit union serves around Oak Harbor, Ohio, for funding educational and skills training opportunities other than college. Local employers were finding a gap between the skills they required for workers and those who were submitting applications for openings.

The $47 million credit union got to work in 2017, putting together a plan with CU Strategic Planning, Tacoma, Washington, to build stronger partnerships with community organizations and identify what role the credit union could play, according to Barr, a CUES member. It also started building the narrative that would form its application for a Community Development Financial Institution Fund grant from the U.S. Treasury Department to support a nontraditional student lending program. (Read more about the application process in the section, “Applying for Grants, below.) The preparation process took several months, but the CU’s CDFI financial assistance grant application was submitted in April 2018 and approved for $875,000 by October of that year.

Making an Impact

Commodore Perry FCU’s new student loan program, Career Connection, is not just a loan but a comprehensive program. It isn’t as simple as the typical loan for college, Barr explained.

“The challenge is holistic,” Barr says. “There are other financial barriers that keep these students from following through to completion.” Very often these students are working full-time jobs and may need some hours off to attend classes, which they can’t afford. Additional gas money and childcare expenses add up, he outlined.


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