Synchrony’s new academy helps train students, workers in a digital economy

STAMFORD — Margaret Keane, the executive chairwoman of Synchrony, the country’s largest provider of private-label and store-brand credit cards, says extending “ladders” to help employees advance in their careers is a crucial part of the company’s mission.

Now, Synchrony is also looking to provide those ladders to students and workers outside the organization.

Keane, other leaders of the Fortune 500 company and public officials, including Gov. Ned Lamont, gathered Monday at the firm’s Stamford headquarters to celebrate the recent opening of its 10,500-square-foot Synchrony Skills Academy, which is the home of digitally focused training programs for students and workers. The new hub is a key part of Education as an Equalizer, an approximately $50 million initiative funded by Synchrony and its foundation to support higher education, workforce training and financial literacy for its workforce and underserved communities.

“The world has changed, and it’s become a digital economy,” Keane, who served as Synchrony’s chief executive officer from 2014 to 2021, said at the ceremony. “Our future depends on a new and innovative way to fill the workforce. We have to really think differently about this in the 21st century. And it’s especially true here in Connecticut.”

Synchrony CEO and President Brian Doubles, who was not able to attend in person, made a similar argument for the academic skills in a pre-recorded video message.

“Within the next decade, nine out of 10 jobs will require digital skills — and yet 76 percent of global workers feel unprepared for a digital future,” Doubles said. “That’s something we’re feeling right here in Connecticut. The reality is there’s an urgent need to develop a more diverse, skilled workforce, while equally working to address the economic inequality we’ve all seen in our state.”

The company’s message found a receptive audience in the elected officials who attended. Lamont, US Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons and state Rep. Hubert Delany, D-Stamford, said they were grateful for the company’s support of workforce development in the state.

“I need to make sure that nobody is left behind,” Lamont said. “None of this, ‘Those jobs are not for people like me; they’re for other people.’ Wrong. We’ve got jobs for you right now. Our job is to make sure you have the skills you need.”

Simmons said, “This skillset that this academy will be providing is going to be transformative for so many students and those who are underserved in our community to be able to access jobs of the future.”

The academy’s partners include the Governor’s Workforce Council, Stamford Public Schools, the University of Connecticut, jobs-training specialist General Assembly and the nonprofits District Arts and Education, and Future5.

“Success is executive suites and board rooms looking the way that our classroom currently does,” said AM Bhatt, founder and CEO of DAE, which is running the academy’s programs for high school students. “The jobs are absolutely entry points, and they’re critical. … But what success actually looks like requires a longer time horizon — 10, 20 years. We measure it in board rooms, executives and state houses.”

Among the classes running at the skills academy, about 25 students from Stamford High School, Westhill High School and the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering are attending an after-school digital-training program launched in January and running until June. The students are learning web development, UX design and data analytics. In addition, students are receiving college and career assistance from Future5, the University of Connecticut’s Engineering Ambassadors and Synchrony.

The academy will host a similar summer program, which will also draw from local high schools.


Adult education at the academy includes a 12-week software engineering “boot camp” run by General Assembly that started last month. There are seven students in the first cohort.

“This has impacted the decisions for our future careers,” said Westhill senior Nichole Samaniego, one of the students in the after-school program. “I wanted to be a nurse; Now I’m going to the School of Engineering at UConn.”

Fellow Westhill senior Julia Piascik, who will study computer science at Sacred Heart University, also attested to how the after-school program had instilled confidence in tackling digital assignments. During tours of the academy that guests took after the ceremony, Piascik and Samaniego presented websites they had built.

“I wanted to be a physician’s assistant, so it’s a very drastic change,” Piascik said of her newfound interest in computer science. “I didn’t think I’d be able to do these types of things. Coming here has been amazing.”

pschott@stamfordadvocate.com; twitter: @paulschott

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