BankWork$: Opening doors to careers in the banking industry
Since 2014, Wells Fargo has supported BankWork$, a free, eight-week career training program that prepares young adults from low-income communities for entry-level positions to build meaningful careers in banking.
Khalid Zainel and Maria Solorio found out about the program from a friend. Tometra Taylor learned about it from the Department of Social and Health Services. No matter how they discovered BankWork$®, all three have since graduated from the program, joined Wells Fargo, and been promoted in their careers.
BankWork$ is a free, eight-week career training, placement assistance, and ongoing coaching program that prepares young adults from low-income communities for entry-level positions in the banking industry, such as tellers, customer service representatives, relationship bankers, and personal bankers.
“We are training folks who never had a foot into meaningful career opportunities,” said Sherry Cromett, president of CareerWork$, the umbrella organization that BankWork$ falls under. “Just because you haven’t had access doesn’t mean you’re not qualified and capable of really opening up a door to a long-lasting career. We’ve done data analysis that shows our graduates’ incomes double in the first three years, and their lifetime earnings over 30 years are $1 million more than nonparticipants. We can have an impact on the economy and economic divide.”
“Just because you haven’t had access doesn’t mean you’re not qualified and capable of really opening up a door to a long-lasting career.” — Sherry Cromett
Since 2014, Wells Fargo has supported BankWork$ financially and with employee volunteers, in addition to hiring more than 530 graduates. In 2014, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, which started BankWork$, agreed to contribute $1 million each over five years to expand the program nationally. BankWork$, which operates through local workforce organizations, is now in 13 communities around the U.S. In response to COVID-19 and to improve overall effectiveness, the program has shifted to a hybrid model of online and in-person training and virtual job fairs after students graduate.
“One of the reasons we support BankWork$ is we know its graduates present us with a diverse and talented candidate pool,” said Tracy Curtis, region bank president for Wells Fargo’s Northern Oregon region and a member of the advisory board for BankWork$. “It taught them how to enter the professional world of banking.”
‘BankWork$ gave me hope’
After having a difficult pregnancy with her daughter and postpartum depression, Taylor decided not to return to her job as a certified nursing assistant. She learned about BankWork$ from DSHS and was intrigued.
“I needed something stable where I could build a career,” Taylor said. “When I saw everything BankWork$ had to offer, I felt like it provided security for me.”
In the program, she was able to prepare her resume and for job interviews, while also learning about cash handling, dealing with various job scenarios, and dressing professionally. After graduating, Taylor joined Wells Fargo as a teller in 2013 and has since been promoted to lead teller, banker, and service manager, her current role in Puyallup, Washington. She has also spoken at BankWork$ graduation ceremonies and served as a mentor for graduates who have joined Wells Fargo.
“I feel like BankWork$ gave me hope,” Taylor said. “It really prepared me for the banking world. I didn’t feel overwhelmed, and it instilled confidence in me. That’s huge when you’re talking to customers or your team because if you don’t believe it, they won’t.”
‘A door to a solid job’
Zainel was working as a restaurant manager in Michigan when his friend in Oregon told him about BankWork$. He always loved math and banking, so he decided to move to Oregon and joined the program in September 2017. In addition to the other skills the program teaches, Zainel, who is from Iraq, had to learn a new financial system.
“In my country, we don’t have electronic banking with debit and credit cards,” Zainel said. “We use checks. My first year here I had no bank account.”
During the BankWork$ job fair, he met with a Wells Fargo recruiter who referred him to the Beaverton branch near his home. He applied, interviewed, and received a job offer for a teller position in December 2017. Ten months later, he applied for a lead teller role, which is his current position. Since graduating, he has also referred friends to BankWork$.
“BankWork$ was a door for opportunity, a door to a solid job,” Zainel said. “If someone wants to grow in the banking industry, it’s a good opportunity.”
‘BankWork$ is a good program to take advantage of’
Solorio was on maternity leave from her job as a hotel manager when her friend asked her to participate in the BankWork$ program. Solorio banked with Wells Fargo and had previously talked with the employees at her branch about working there, so she applied and was accepted to the program, starting in early 2013.
In the program, Solorio learned leadership and professional communications skills. Upon graduating, she was hired as a teller on the day of her interview. She was promoted to lead teller after a year and is now a personal banker in Tacoma, Washington.
“What I learned most was how to carry myself,” Solorio said. “There are difficult times we experience with customers that trigger their emotions. I’ve been successful due to the way I carry myself and empathize. That is something I learned from BankWork$. I am the customer’s expert, and they are coming to me for help. We are like their doctor in finances.”
She has since returned to the BankWork$ program to share her experience. “If you want to do something more,” she said, “BankWork$ is a good program to take advantage of, especially if you want a long-term career.”