5 Minutes with Markeia Johnson
Primis Works Manager, Primis Bank

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During our 3rd Annual ABA/VBA/MBA DEI Summit on September 15, one of the strategy sessions discussed workforce development with a focus on programs that target nontraditional employees. During the session, we heard about a unique program that empowers single mothers, developed by Primis Bank, called Primis Works.

Markeia Johnson, Assistant Vice President at Primis Bank, manages the Primis Works program and served as a panelist during the session. 

Your CEO, Dennis Zember, Jr., recently said that the benefits of the Primis Works program include financial stability, career pathways and peace of mind for participants. Those are all tremendous outcomes. Can you tell us more about this program and how it works?

MJ: Through Dennis’s vision, we are committed to providing single mothers with the training and support necessary to have rewarding careers. Our staff, as well as charitable, religious and other local organizations, mentor and train these mothers as they work to secure their futures for themselves and their families.

One of the great things about this program is that it is an experience that incorporates both personal and professional growth, and goalsetting. The associates are introduced to the financial service industry on day one, and they are eligible for benefits when they begin the program. Those benefits include anything from medical, vision and dental insurance to having life insurance and a 401(k) with employer match.  An additional benefit of being part of this program is that Primis will pay 100% of childcare costs for up to two children for the five months of this program.

Associates spend two to three weeks in different departments including retail, compliance, loan servicing, operations, customer care, training, and BSA, providing associates hands-on training to develop their skills.

At the end of the program, the associates have the opportunity to interview for any open positions that most align with their skill sets and areas of expertise. We cap the program with a graduation ceremony that the associates participate in with their families which also includes the bank staff. It’s a wonderful moment where we all come together and celebrate this amazing milestone with them.

The first class graduated in January, less than a year ago. Can you give us an update on the women from that group?

MJ: We had three amazing women who were hired from the first class, and they are successful in our loan servicing department and our bank secrecy department. Each of these women are grateful for the opportunity and are excelling in their current roles. The women will also come and share their program experiences with the upcoming classes, as a way of giving back and this is a success in itself.

How do you think about ROI or how do you continue to have support for your program within your bank?

MJ: When we think about this question in relation to our program and the mothers that we encounter, and who we empower, it’s important to think of some specific statistics according to the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau: 80% of single parent families are headed by single mothers and one-third of single mothers spend a third of their income on childcare. Everything about this program, including the mothers themselves, aligns with our mission, our vision and with our core values. Our values are simple, we want everyone to be a leader and provide leadership from where they are within the company. Taking accountability for their actions, being inspired, creative and to share their thoughts. A lot of the women who are in the program are also business owners, and they have so much to contribute from that perspective as well. Finally, we like for everyone in the company to be “all-in”.

How do you get the message out that you have this program?

MJ: Many of our resources are through charitable, religious or local organizations with which we partner. One foundation we have partnered closely with is the Forward Foundation VA, which helps single mothers who may have encountered a life altering event resulting in a financial crisis. They are a major partner in helping spread the word, but also our bank employees are always out in the community, sharing what we do as a bank.

Any final thoughts?

MJ: Primis Works is here to support single mothers. That’s what this industry and Primis Bank is all about: supporting our community as much as we can!

Missed the DEI Summit? Listen to the full recording featuring Markeia and other bankers sharing their organizations’ innovative programs, as well as access hours of other DEI-focused content, by registering here. The rate is $195 and recordings will be available through October 20th.