Hispanic/Latino banks, analysts, investors and tellers are noticeably absent from the financial sector. However, programs designed by one of the nation's largest advocates for la raza should help to swarm the financial services sector with capable young Latinos.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that only 5.7 percent of individuals employed in securities, commodities, funds, trusts and other financial investment sectors are Latino, despite the fact Latinos comprise more than 17 percent of the nation's total population. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation, has launched efforts to connect Hispanic/Latino high school students, college students and millennials with futures in finances with its Latino Millennials in College and Careers Workforce Development Program -- a culturally relevant program that's supported by a robust social media campaign.

Líderes Avanzando, Escalera and the workforce training program are three unique ventures designed and deployed to put young Latinos on the path toward careers and opportunities in the financial services sector. This is made possible through curriculum, a series of workshops, activities and training.

"Several things motivated this program, and one of those things was the current employment situation facing Latino millennials ...we were concerned about that. We'd seen a significant increase in the number of Latinos graduating from high school, which is wonderful. The graduation rate at the highest level it's been in the country. However, we were concerned, because as we saw Latinos going into college, but we also saw them not staying in college," said Peggy McLeod, deputy VP for Education at NCLR, to Latin Post.

"Also, another issue we're trying to address is creating awareness at the high school and the college level about the types of careers that are available in the financial services sector, just to make sure that our kids know what the different careers are. But, the biggest motivator for us was to do something about the unemployment and to have kids -- Latino youth -- access some training."

There are two major components to the project: There's the Escalera Program, which is an established program geared toward high school students; and the Líderes Avanzando program, which is a pilot program that targets college students. According to McLeod, the Escalera program is highly successful in keeping kids in high school, and helping them to graduate from high school and go to college. However, both programs encourage first generation Latino college-goers; also, the curriculum addresses issues that many Latino youth face in college. For some, issues include attending college while taking care of a parent or dealing with car fees. For others, particularly first-generation college-goers, it's overcoming fear of failure and feelings of being overwhelmed.  Líderes Avanzando, which is a pilot program due to launch in the fall, will be able to challenge issues that prevent young Latinos from staying in college and graduating. The pilot program for Líderes Avanzando is currently in Los Angeles, but it will expand into San Antonio in the fall.

"Three new things that we're able to do as part of this project is to develop a curriculum geared toward Latino millennials that allows them to receive training for careers in the financial service industry. Specifically, it allows folks who may have graduated from high school, but didn't go to college or may have gone to college but didn't graduate ... or don't have enough credits, to take advantage of this bank teller curriculum program," McLeod said.

"This is really exciting for us because it's allowed us to take this and make it something that's geared toward millennials. Also, we've created, using some of Wells Fargo's materials, modules that will be offered to affiliates that are currently doing the Escalera program for high school kids."

The modules were designed to create awareness of the many jobs available in the financial sector and social services sector, and how to access these jobs. The good-paying positions in the finance sector are made more accessible because Escalera students are exposed to information about those jobs early on and in a way that relates to their world.

"I can tell you that all of our materials are culturally relevant; that is the hallmark of NCLR programs. All of materials that we've developed are culturally relevant for the population that we're serving," said McLeod. "We know that some of programs and materials are helpful for other populations, and we don't lay claim to that, but our work is always done through a cultural lens.

"An example: Let's go back to high school aged kids. A lot programs out there focus on the children, as they should, and they focus on the school. Our programs, because we know that college-going for Latinos is a family affair, intentionally incorporates the family into the programming. We intentionally involve parents. With Escalera, when the kids go on college trips, at many of our sites the kids' parents hop on the school bus and go to college with the kids because they've never seen a college before." 

NCLR has contributed to the two decade incline in Latino high school graduation rates through various efforts, and they intend to continue to push Latino youth to learn more and acquire high quality jobs. According to McLeod, education is the key for Latinos, so preparedness through college and the workforce programs is essential if the community members want to contribute more to the nation, the neighborhoods and their households. The programs, which are scattered across 41 states and facilitated by 300 affiliates with years of experience and local familiarity, were create to enable growth and prosperity.

"For us, it's really great to do some of the projects that we've been thinking about for a while, and to have partnerships that allow us create these programs, which didn't exist before. It's just really important for the staff, for me and for our leaders to see these programs come to fruition," McLeod stated. "We're just really excited about the possibilities of what we can do. The programs could be replicated in other places."