This article was published in the Culver City Observer, by Sandra Coppersmith, February 2016
When one thinks of hope and personal fulfillment, a financial institution is generally not the first image that springs to mind. However, when it comes to Bank of America in Culver City's Culver Center Abigail Reyes, its employee for the past few months, has a very positive perspective concerning its role in her future.
Reyes, a bright, poised young woman, is one of the many beneficiaries of BankWork$®, an innovative and award-winning career training program launched in 2006 by Jewish Vocational Service of Los Angeles (JVSLA). The eight-week course, which is free to qualified participants, has been a life-changer for her. Four years ago her future was flung off course when she was struck by a car after school, resulting in over a year of trauma, treatment and physical therapy.
"After regaining my health I got my first job, which was in the food industry," Reyes said. "While working, I completed the studies necessary to obtain my GED. After getting the GED I wanted to move to a career, and I told a friend I was looking."
Her friend suggested that she explore the BankWork$ program offered through JVSLA, its vocational training partner. Reyes researched it on the Internet (see http://www.bankworks.org and http://www.jvsla.org), spoke with Associate Director Lisa Meadows at JVSLA, was interviewed by phone, formally applied, and entered the program in May.
That turned out to be a win-win situation for Reyes and Bank of America, which recruited her upon graduation (several banks were present at the on-site job fair), a joyful celebration marking completion of an intensive training period involving three classes a week for eight weeks.
"I learned all about the various careers in banking during those sessions," she continued, recalling that "there were three speakers that came in. We covered bank procedures, regulations and expectations. Hearing is a very different game from doing, but when I came to the bank I had knowledge of what to expect and why, and this was so valuable in preparing me."
Attitude was a key factor.
"BankWork$ helped me to have a better attitude about how I see myself," Reyes shared. "I learned to be part of a team – and my team here at the bank has helped me a lot – and to receive constructive criticism. It helped me to gain confidence because I didn't think I was going to get it when I first applied to BankWork$ and now – I'm here! At the bank I did my online training, finished in a week, and had my own cashbox within the following week."
Reyes focuses on "presenting a quality experience to a customer. Being a teller doesn't just involve counting money. It's an opportunity to interact with others. I hope to become a personal banker and then an auditor, and am willing to put in the work and invest the time. This branch has been very welcoming and has a strong family feeling.
The head of that family would be Alex Cordova, Vice President and Financial Center Manager III of this very active branch. "We process over 12,000 transactions a month," he said.
Cordova, who has been in banking for 15 years, was exposed to ROP (Regional Occupational Program) as a senior at Los Angeles High School. He started as a teller and has been a manager for 10 years, since the inception of BankWork$ in 2006.
"In the beginning a representative came to the branch to introduce the program and get us involved," he said. He subsequently had experience with its graduates at other Bank of America branches where he worked.
"JVSLA does very comprehensive training that gets the graduates ready," Cordova stated. "They know bank terminology and practices, give great customer service, and go above and beyond for the client. The training makes it easier for them to adapt to the specific policies of the hiring bank.
"We work with our employees to understand where they want to grow within the company, and help provide them with the tools to get there. Graduates from BankWork$ are not just looking for a job, they are looking for a career. The program demonstrates the endless opportunities in the financial services industry to all of its students, and Abigail is one of those associates with the potential to have a strong career path. The extensive training that she received has helped her in her current role."
Cordova described how the bank is "committed to being a strong local partner and making a positive contribution to the local community where we live and work. We focus our support on three core issues that address local challenges: housing, hunger and jobs. Our partnership with BankWork$ allows us to connect people to the training and education they need to secure employment. By working with community partners such as JVSLA, we are able to help empower individuals and communities to thrive and be more financially stable."
Key to the success of BankWork$ is Lisa Meadows, a former banker who heads the program at JVSLA. It was an ideal match. "I have 27 years in banking," Meadows said. "I began my career when looking to use my teaching credential right out of college and found the job market difficult. I applied to several banks and started working at Union Bank as a teller. I took to banking and enjoyed a long career, retiring from banking as a Senior Vice President at Comerica Bank.
"Additionally, for the last 11 years I have worked at Suicide Prevention Center as a Crisis Line Supervisor and trainer. When I saw the position open at JVSLA for someone to write the BankWork$ program and get it off the ground, I knew this was the right job for me. I've been at JVSLA almost 10 years and have taught 60 sessions. JVSLA has graduated over 1,000 candidates and we have placed over 800. Nationally, this program has placed over 1,000 people. I have a passion for helping others and find great satisfaction in knowing that I may have made an impact on someone's life."
The graduation ceremony for the latest BankWork$ training class of 21 members was held Feb. 4 at the EXPO Center in Los Angeles, with the next session starting Feb. 24.
Lisa Meadows, Associate Director, at the BankWork$ graduation ceremony on Feb. 4. She created the curriculum. Meadows described the event as "inspiring. These graduates now have an opportunity to be well-trained, self-sufficient members of the workforce, contributing to the community and to their own future. This is an example of effective interaction, when various elements partner together for a positive outcome."
That interaction was acknowledged when JVSLA BankWork$ won the Project Collaboration Award at the 2013 Los Angeles Business Journal (LABJ) Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards, recognizing "innovation, involvement of multiple stakeholders and the engagement of the community being served."
If the recipe for success calls for desire, opportunity, dedication and knowledge, then JVSLA BankWork$ has combined just the right ingredients to produce candidates sure to whet an employer's appetite – and you can bank on that.