‘A foot in the door’ for aspiring bankers
BankWork$®, a free training program that helps adults in underserved communities prepare for careers in the financial services industry, is expanding to Philadelphia.
Since Douglas Wynhoff, 44, was a child, he knew he wanted a career in the banking industry, but as an adult, he realized he didn’t have enough experience. He had served a year in the U.S. Army as a field medic and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Houston in 2012 — but his five-month search for entry-level banking jobs was unsuccessful.
Just as Wynhoff was about to pursue a different career, his wife learned about BankWork$®. The free training program prepares people — typically those who are unemployed or underemployed in low-income and minority communities — for careers in the financial services industry, specifically for positions as bank tellers, customer service representatives, relationship bankers, and personal bankers.
Today, Wynhoff is a personal banker for Wells Fargo in Houston. “I’m in a great job now with a bright future,” he said, “and I owe it all to BankWork$.”
The national program is expanding in June 2017 to a 10th city: Philadelphia. While BankWork$ and some banks provide the initial funding for the program, a local nonprofit workforce development organization — Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc. — will administer the program.
“We are excited to launch BankWork$ in Philadelphia, where, like the other cities we have expanded to, there is a need among the population and there are opportunities for banking careers,” said Les Biller, founder of BankWork$ and former chief operating officer for Wells Fargo.
‘A solution to two critical needs’
“As I was retiring from the banking industry, I knew there was a high demand for talented individuals to fill retail banking positions,” Biller said. “I also knew that there were many talented individuals from low-income communities that had the attitude and aptitude to be successful and only needed some focused training in order for their ability to shine through. BankWork$ opens a door for these individuals, connecting them directly with the banks that need their commitment, focus, and dedication.”
In 2014, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation agreed to contribute $1 million each over five years to expand BankWork$ nationally. The Philadelphia location marks the program’s first in the Northeast.
“BankWork$ provides a solution to two critical needs: It provides individuals with training to qualify for rewarding careers in financial services, and it provides companies with qualified candidates to fill critical positions at the local level,” said Greg Redden, Wells Fargo regional president for Greater Philadelphia and Delaware. “Wells Fargo is proud to continue our support and collaborate with (Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center), BankWork$, and City Council President Darrell Clarke to bring this initiative to Philadelphia.”
How the program works
Once BankWork$ decides where to expand, the staff looks for local workforce development organizations that could deliver the eight-week program four times a year. The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation provides a startup grant once an organization is selected, and Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and other local banks may also provide some additional funding.
The workforce development organization that administers the BankWork$ program in each city promotes the program locally. Students may see something about the program on a website, like Wynhoff’s wife did, or hear about it through word of mouth, like Tiffany Pauquette, a teller with Wells Fargo in Houston who completed the BankWork$ program in July 2016.
“I served in the U.S. Navy as a mechanic on helicopters, but I had been a stay-at-home mom and out of work for about eight years,” Pauquette said. “It was hard to get a job without much work history. I figured BankWork$ would help me attain the necessary skills to get back into the workforce.”
Potential students who contact the organization undergo several tests, including a phone screening to determine if they meet the eligibility requirements, and an in-person assessment. The organization then invites about 25 students to participate in each BankWork$ class. The students attend classes for three full days a week, covering topics such as working in a corporate environment; soft skills like active listening, customer service, and empathy; the history and basics of banking; writing a resume; and preparing for job interviews.
Toward the end of the program, students begin applying for jobs online with partner banks in the local market. Immediately following their graduation ceremony, the students participate in a job fair with bank representatives. Of the 2,030 students who have graduated from the program across the country, 72 percent have landed jobs in the banking industry. BankWork$ recently placed their 1,500th graduate in a job within the financial services industry.
BankWork$ continues to check in with students regarding their career status one month, three months, six months, and 12 months after they graduate. Eighty-four percent of graduates have stayed in their banking jobs six months later, according to BankWork$.
Pauquette and Wynhoff both received job offers from Wells Fargo shortly after their graduation from BankWork$. Wynhoff, who had applied for a Wells Fargo teller position prior to the BankWork$ program, received his job offer in December 2016. He called it “the best Christmas gift of all time. It worked out better in the end, since I was given another shot with the company at a higher position and with better pay. I am extremely grateful.”
They both agreed that they felt more prepared for their jobs with Wells Fargo because of their participation in BankWork$. “It’s a foot in the door,” Pauquette said.