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HomeNewsOpportunity Finance Network Launches NextGen CDFI Workforce Initiative

Opportunity Finance Network Launches NextGen CDFI Workforce Initiative

With a $5 million grant from the Citi Foundation, OFN aims to strengthen the CDFI industry by attracting and retaining the future workforce

As the U.S. workforce continues to change and evolve, industries across the economy struggle with the need for a skilled workforce, and community development finance is no exception. To respond to this need, Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) has launched the NextGen CDFI Workforce initiative with a $5 million grant from the Citi Foundation through its Community Finance Innovation Fund.

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) exist to fill financing gaps in low-income, low-wealth, and minority communities. Given their role as financial first responders during the pandemic-related economic crisis, CDFIs have achieved greater public visibility and a new influx of public and private capital and are poised to bring affordable, accessible capital to targeted communities at an unprecedented level. However, the industry has identified a major obstacle to growth and greater impact: a talent shortage.

Like other industries, the CDFIs need a pipeline of young, skilled workers to ensure future sustainability and growth. Through this new initiative, OFN is developing tools, training, and outreach programs to foster growth, encourage innovation, and position the industry to take advantage of opportunities at this pivotal moment.

“This is a transformational opportunity for the CDFI industry,” said Seth Julyan, executive vice president for network services at OFN. “This initiative will not just strengthen and diversify today’s CDFI workforce but will attract and train the next generation so the industry can scale sustainably and better meet the needs of the communities we serve.”

Across OFN’s 400-strong membership and the nation’s more than 1400 CDFIs, the need to recruit a diverse workforce has become imperative. NextGen CDFI Workforce will meet three urgent needs: industry-specific professional development training, leading practices resources, and a digital career hub to attract new, diverse talent and leadership and help current professionals advance within the industry.

“Around the country, the CDFI industry is growing to meet the increasing economic needs of American households,” said Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi. “Through our support of the OFN’s new initiative to train a diverse talent pipeline, the Citi Foundation aims to help the community finance sector gear up for a more inclusive, sustainable future.”

Since launching the program early this year, OFN has released new tools and resources to attract and onboard those new to the field as well as develop mid-career professionals with specialized technical training to advance their careers and future-proof the industry. This week in Chicago, where close to 500 CDFI practitioners are gathered for the tenth annual Small Business Finance Forum, OFN is delivering sold-out training sessions, from “CDFI 101” to risk assessment to fundamentals of climate lending.

Over the three-year initiative, OFN aims to reach 7,500 current and future CDFI professionals with the tools, skills, and expertise they need to have a greater economic impact in rural, urban, and Native communities. Leading practice guides and toolkits across the full range of CDFI operations, developed with industry experts, cover critical topics such as operationalizing racial equity and inclusion in lending, impact measurement, succession planning, and more. The full-service career center will serve as a hub for learning about the industry and its history, exploring career pathways and professional development, and searching and applying for jobs and internships.