BankWork$™ to train and place thousands of young adults in banking jobs over 5 years: Program builds on success in Los Angeles and Seattle

August 14, 2015 | Ranko Fukuda | 818-649-7616

Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation Invest Millions in training and hiring from minority and low-income communities

Los Angeles – In an effort to introduce young adults from low-income and minority communities to careers in the financial services industry, BankWork$ today announced the national expansion plan of their vocational training program intended to place 1,500 – 2,000 graduates annually in banking positions by 2018.

Bank of America, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo have each pledged $1 million over five years to support the national rollout. The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, who founded the program, also has pledged to contribute $1 million.  BankWork$ was launched in 2006 in partnership with nonprofit JVS Los Angeles, a regional workforce development leader, expanding to Seattle in 2011 where the training is delivered by YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. BankWork$ will expand to San Francisco/Bay Area in the fall, followed by Phoenix and Portland, Ore. in 2015. By 2018, BankWork$ will be operating in 12-15 cities nationwide.

“Bank of America looks for a variety of ways to build a pipeline of diverse talent” said Michael Sherman, head of Global Staffing at Bank of America.  “BankWork$ has developed an innovative way to introduce a career in banking to people from inner city communities and we are proud to be a part of extending the program across the country.”

BankWork$ has achieved enviable results.  Since launching in 2006 in Los Angeles, BankWork$ has successfully placed more than 750 graduates who were hired by banks and other financial institutions.  BankWork$ achieves a graduation rate of approximately 75% and is placing approximately 70% of graduates with partner banks each year.  BankWork$ graduates also stay employed in their jobs: retention rates for 2012 BankWork$ graduates showed that 82% were employed six months after their hire date and 76% one year from their hire date.

“We developed BankWork$ to open a door for young people from low income and minority communities to help them find and succeed in well-paying jobs that can lead to a lasting career,” said Les Biller, BankWork$ founder and co-founder of The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation.  “Every successful person has been helped by someone who opened a door for him or her at some point in their career.  We wanted to do that for people who would not otherwise have found their way into banking.  And at the same time we are providing our partner banks with well-trained and highly qualified candidates who happen to be from underserved communities.”

“What makes BankWork$ successful and different, is that they do not just focus on the specific training for financial sector jobs,” said Chris Heman, President of U.S. Bank in Washington State.  “BankWork$ students are exposed to lessons regarding workplace culture and behavior, and learn about the industry as a whole, so we find the graduates can position themselves for long and promising careers within the financial services industry. ”

“Having a workforce that reflects the communities we serve is important for Wells Fargo and for the financial services industry as a whole,” said John Sotoodeh, Regional President –Southern California, Wells Fargo. “Our goal is to have Wells Fargo team members that exceed our customers’ expectations.  That translates into highly trained team members that reflect the community where they live and work and deliver an excellent customer experience, resulting in helping their customers succeed financially.  Our investment in BankWork$ is an investment that helps realize that goal.”

BankWork$ classes are free for participants. The classes run for eight weeks and provide training in the skills needed for jobs as tellers, customer service representatives and personal bankers.  BankWork$ also offers job interview practice, job placement assistance and ongoing coaching and mentoring to help with career advancement.

Banking industry professionals and BankWork$ Founding Partner JVS Los Angeles developed the curriculum, which is designed to be cost-effective and maximize graduation, placement, retention and advancement rates. To date, JVS Los Angeles has completed 46 classes and YWCA Seattle has completed 15 – totaling over 1,000 BankWork$ graduates – with more than 750 placed as tellers and personal bankers. BankWork$ will partner with local non-profit vocational training organizations to run the eight-week classes and seek support from the local banks in each market.

“The BankWork$ training changed my life, and that’s allowed me to create new opportunities for my family,” said Ruby Bates, a 2012 Seattle BankWork$ graduate who is now working at KeyBank. “I gained the confidence and knowledge I needed to step into my job and succeed.  Within a year, I was promoted to lead teller.  I have a job that I am proud of and that offers me future career advancement.”

BankWork$ reflects the collaboration much sought after by the for-profit and non-profit sectors.  BankWork$ has been recognized with the Project Collaboration Award at the Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards sponsored by the Los Angeles Business Journal for its work in bringing together partner banks, local government agencies and philanthropies to support job training.

“BankWork$ succeeds because we partner with local non-profits that are experts in job training and with local banks that employ graduates,” said Colleen Anderson, who joined BankWork$ as executive director after a 30-year career in the financial services industry. “We’ve fused banking industry experience with job training expertise to create opportunities for people from underserved communities – and we can’t wait to expand that opportunity to new communities across the country.”

Heman and Sotoodeh, along with Johnny Montes, Senior Vice President and Area Executive for Bank of America represent the three partner banks and serve on the BankWork$ Advisory Board. Other advisory board members include Biller; Anderson; Lynn Carter, former President of Capital One Bank; and Roger O. Goldman, Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee of American Express Bank F.S.B.

Participants in the BankWork$ program must be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED, be fluent in written and spoken English, have basic computer skills and no adult felony convictions.

About BankWork$: The program was started in 2006 in Los Angeles by The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation and currently runs in Los Angeles and Seattle, placing more than 200 individuals in banking careers every year. As part of a five-year, $4-million national expansion in partnership with Bank of America, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, it will add operations in San Francisco, Phoenix and Portland, Ore. in 2014-15 before moving to a total of 12-15 cities by 2018. For more information, see