JVS BankWork$™ -- 50 Classes and Counting

In December, the latest group of trained bank tellers receive their diplomas, pose for photographs, hug their family members and move off into the recruitment room to meet with the representatives from partnering banks and financial institutions, most of which have actual jobs they need to fill. You’ve heard this story before? Of course you have. It has been told and retold for the past eight and a half years ever since the first JVS BankWork$™ class graduated in November of 2006.

Fast forward to 2014 and the December 17 class which happened to be graduating class number 50.

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50 classes. A good solid number, right? An achievement worth noting, and that is precisely what the Los Angeles Business Journal did when banking beat writer  Matt Pressberg reported the milestone, making note of the fact that BankWork$ - which currently operates in Los Angeles in Seattle - is in the process of expanding to other cities throughout the United States.

Here are some equally impressive numbers.

In the program’s history, there have been 1,215 enrollments, 876 graduates, and 715 placements. Given that many BankWork$ students have overcome major obstacles to make it into the program, to graduate, to be offered a job and to keep it, that data is a testament to a program that changes lives.

But there are no guarantees. BankWork$ administrators maintain rigorous standards for who they will accept, and not everyone who starts the program will complete it. Not only are these students facing obstacles that prevent them from getting a job, even committing to and completing a rigorous eight-week training program is challenging.

Students are single parents, former foster care youth, and recently-arrived immigrants who might still be learning English. Other BankWork$ students have included recently returned U.S. veterans and people who have been unemployed for lengthy periods of time. Many have experienced extreme poverty or are holding down a job or taking night classes while simultaneously taking BankWork$. Some commute up to 100 miles round trip to take the class.

At the graduation, the bank recruiters hear a brief introduction to each student which provides a bit of detail about who this person is, his past professional experience and why s/he will be every bit an asset to whichever bank hires her. We hear a little bit about some of their challenges, but only enough to scratch the surface of who these people are and what they have faced.

To learn more, one needs to speak to them.

JVSWorks attended to the first day of class for class #51 at EXPO Center, which happened to be the same day that the photographer from the Los Angeles Business Journal was shooting a picture to accompany the article about the 50thclass.

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During the lunch break, we spoke to five BankWork$ students, one of whom had tried to take the class two years ago, but who left the program after she was continuously tardy. (All of the names of the students quoted have been changed to protect their privacy).

“I didn’t have a vehicle then, but I have one now,” said Leslie. “Right now I am homeless and I’m trying to get my life on track. Basically this is one of my last chances to make a career for myself.”

Shannon learned about BankWork$ in 2012, but was told she did not have enough experience. Three years and plenty of cash-handling experience later, she is in the class and picturing a bright career in banking. It will represent a major step from the work she does at a restaurant, but it’s a step that Shannon wants to make.

“It’s like I see my life just flashing before me and I’m at the top of the top of the chain,” Shannon says. “I have on a nice business suit and I’m picturing myself as a manager, helping out the customers, making sure the clients and my workers are happy I can see this as a big opportunity for me to move forward.”

Jennifer is up front about her history in the foster care system and about living in transitional housing. She came through the JVS Youth Services Program, earning a summer job at Marshall’s. Currently unemployed, Jennifer is taking night classes at El Camino College during her BankWork$ training.

Both for her interview with Marshall’s and for BankWork$m, Jennifer was told that she would have to make some adjustments to her appearance. Green hair and lots of visible tattoos tend not to go over well in the banking world.

“I really want to succeed in this program and when I am really determined, I won’t stop until I get there,” Jennifer says.

Congratulations to class #50 and watch this space for updates on the progress of Class #51.