Arizona Women’s Education and Employment (AWEE) will partner with BankWork$™ to deepen its long-time work with adults from low-income and minority communities and those with barriers to employment. The partnership to prepare workers for careers in the financial services industry comes as BankWork$™ continues its $4-million national expansion to 15 cities by 2019.

“AWEE is highly respected in Phoenix with deep ties throughout this community,” said Les Biller, BankWork$™ founder and co-founder of The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation. “We were looking for a partner we could work closely with to bring our proven program to Phoenix and together offer a career opportunity for those in need. AWEE understands the importance of providing training in the skills that employers are looking for, which helps ensure that its graduates can find employment and advance in their careers.”

AWEE has been transforming the lives of Arizonans into “faces of success” through the dignity of work for 34 years. Since its inception, AWEE has helped create successful beginnings and renewed hope for more than 165,000 women, men and young adults by assisting them prepare for, find and keep jobs.

“This partnership with BankWorks complements our existing programs at the same time it expands and enhances our ability to prepare women and men for jobs in an industry that offers tremendous career opportunities for our participants,” said AWEE President and CEO Marie Sullivan.  “The combination of job training, job placement assistance and ongoing coaching for career advancement will be incredibly valuable.”

BankWork$™ launched in 2006 in Los Angeles and expanded to Seattle in 2011. It currently places about 200 graduates each year and will continue its expansion to Portland, Ore. later this year. By 2019, BankWork$™ will be operating in 15 or more cities nationwide. Its $4-million national expansion is funded by Bank of America, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, which have each pledged $1 million over five years to support the rollout, and by The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, which founded the program and has also pledged $1 million.

Since its launch, BankWork$™ has achieved enviable results. It has successfully placed more than 800 graduates who were hired by banks and other financial institutions. BankWork$™ achieves a graduation rate of approximately 75% and is placing approximately 70% of graduates with partner banks each year. BankWork$™ graduates also stay employed in their jobs: retention rates for 2012 BankWork$™ graduates showed that 86% were employed six months after their hire date and 72% one year from their hire date.

Eleanor Millwood, Bank of America Arizona Area Executive, said that BankWork$ is “an incredibly important workforce development resource for both banks and the individuals the program is serving to put them on a possible career path and for banks to have a well trained, diverse and motivated base of potential employees.  Partnering with AWEE in this effort brings together two highly credible and proven organizations that will certainly result in effective and productive outcomes for everyone involved.”

BankWork$™ classes are free for participants. Banking industry professionals and BankWork$™ Founding Partner JVS Los Angeles developed the curriculum, which is designed to be hands-on training with exposure to banks and the financial industry, and teaches sales and customer service skills through simulation exercises. The classes run for eight weeks and provide training in the skills needed for jobs as tellers, customer service representatives and personal bankers. The course culminates in a graduation and job fair with local banking partners, giving graduates the opportunity to interview for jobs immediately. BankWork$™ also offers resume building, job interview practice, job placement assistance and ongoing coaching and mentoring to help with career advancement. Participants must be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED, be fluent in written and spoken English, have basic computer skills and no adult felony convictions.

“It always is so gratifying to see our graduates interview with potential employers and successfully put into action all they have learned during their BankWork$™ classes,” said Colleen Anderson, BankWork$™ Executive Director, who spent 30+ years in the financial services industry. “AWEE has more than three decades of experience and has had a major influence on building and expanding Arizona’s workforce.”

BankWork$™ reflects the collaboration much sought after by the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. The Los Angeles Business Journal recognized BankWork$™ with the Project Collaboration Award at the Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards for its work in bringing together partner banks, local government agencies and philanthropies to support job training.