JVS BankWork$™ Honored by City of Los Angeles

Pictured: 5th District City Councilmember Paul Koretz

December 6, 2013 – On the heels of reaching milestone graduation and placement numbers, JVS’ innovative BankWork$™ training program has received a commendation from the City of Los Angeles.

Councilman Paul Koretz presented the proclamation which “recognizes the stellar and critically important work of JVS and specifically the BankWork$™ program for helping to lift individuals and their families up and into careers in the financial services industry.”

“For 82 years, JVS has been dedicated to doing something that sounds simple, but in reality is quite challenging: providing opportunities for people to find jobs at all stages of their lives,” said Koretz whose association with JVS dates back 30 years to when he worked for the City of West Hollywood.

On hand to receive the proclamation was JVS COO Claudia Finkel. Also present were John Sotoodeh, Regional President for LA Metro and Orange County for Wells Fargo and Johnny Montes, Senior VP for Los Angeles East Region for Bank of America. Sarah Lyding, Executive Director of the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation attended on behalf of the program’s founder Les Biller.

Councilmembers also heard from Karopet Jerejyan and Samuel  Ybarra,  BankWork$™ graduates who are currently employed at Wells Fargo and Bank of America respectively. Both graduates have received promotions and are thriving in their new careers.

“I love my life and thanks to JVS, I’m doing great,” said Jerejyan.  “Hopefully a lot more students will be where I am today.”

On Oct. 30, the same day that the eight-week-training program graduated its 40th class, BankWork$™ successfully graduated its 700thstudent. With numerous job offers from partnering banks being extended to graduates of the latest classes, JVS BankWork$™ exceeded 500 placements in its nearly seven-year history.

“For nearly seven years, BankWork$™ has been one of the crown jewels of JVS’ numerous programs, and these milestones underline the program’s success,” said  JVS CEO Vivian Seigel. “We look forward to increasing these numbers and to continuing to place highly qualified and motivated new employees at financial agencies throughout the city.”

BankWork$™ prepares job seekers for positions as bank tellers as a first step on the career ladder in the financial services industry. This intensive eight-week program offers job training, job placement assistance and ongoing coaching for career advancement. This highly replicable model – which is also active in Seattle - serves the full WorkSource system by actively recruiting and training primarily low income job seekers from throughout the city of Los Angeles.

Many of the trainees have overcome multiple barriers to employment including living in extreme poverty as well as limited education and work experience. Several have come from the foster care system or are single parents struggling to earn an independent living. Others are newly arrived immigrants and have overcome significant language and cultural challenges.

“Our graduates are fully prepared, enthusiastic and highly qualified to launch their new careers,” said Finkel. “Today the council is honoring not only a signature program, but a model of a public, private partnership.”

Janice Guzman, who graduated in 2012, recently returned to address a 2013 graduating class. With the help of JVS and BankWork$™, Guzman found employment at US Bank where she has been working at for more than a year. Guzman has progressed from being a peak hours teller to a position with more hours and increased responsibility.

“I come from a really broken background,” said Guzman who moved through 20 foster homes, “and to be able to build myself up has been awesome.”

“JVS and its comprehensive workforce preparation programs are so effective that it’s no surprise they have achieved such success in graduating 700 students in 40 BankWork$™ classes and placing 500 graduates into new jobs across the Southland,” added Barry Simmons, consumer executive, Bank of America. “California’s economy depends on local job creation, which makes JVS so critical to help stimulate the local economy and improve the quality of life for Angelinos entering the workforce.”

The newly-graduated milestone BankWork$™ class includes men and women who have worked in such places as Party City, McDonald’s, GameStop, Marshall’s, Big Lots and the Disneyland Resort. Many of the graduates have college degrees and speak multiple languages. Some have left banking careers in their home countries. Two of the students traveled more than 150 miles round trip to attend the class, never once missing a session or showing up late.

“Despite these challenges, after eight weeks, our trainees have the skills to launch themselves on an exciting new career path, and we couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of them,” said BankWork$™ Program Manager Lisa Meadows. “This would not be possible without the help of our partners.”

Partners include Bank of America, Citibank, City National Bank, First Entertainment Credit Union, Continental Currency Services, Pacific Western Bank, Union Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo. Additional funding partners include United Way, the State of California Employment Training Panel and the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation.

“As a founding partner, consistent consumer and continuing supporter of the JVS BankWork$™ training program, we understand the need, and find great value in the training JVS provides,” said Wells Fargo’s Sotoodeh. “We continue to hire graduates coming out of the BankWork$™ program because they have laid the groundwork necessary for a successful career in the financial services industry.”

Earlier this year, JVS BankWork$™ won the Project Collaboration Award at the 2013 Los Angeles Business Journal (LABJ) Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards. The Project Collaboration Award recognizes “a collaborative project that encompasses involvement of multiple stakeholders in the community, engagement of the community being served and the innovation in approaching a community problem or issue.”

The program also recently earned an Outstanding Achievement Award from the South Bay Workforce Investment Board (WIB).

Thanks to the effort of program founder Les Biller, BankWork$™ has expanded to the Seattle area and plans are in the works to take it to other cities across the country.

“We created BankWork$™ with a social justice mission and a business mindset.  It has contributed to our community’s economic development by creating a model that is mutually beneficial,” says Biller, the former COO of Wells Fargo. “The participants receive jobs that pay above a living wage and are new role models for their family members and their community; and the banks fill a real business need, as they find qualified candidates from inner-city populations from which they have historically had challenges sourcing.”