The first class of adults from low-income and minority communities or those with barriers to employment will graduate on March 2 from BankWork$, a partnership with Arizona Women’s Education and Employment (AWEE) to prepare workers for careers in the financial services industry.

The 13 women and men from across the Valley who will complete the eight-week program, meeting three times a week for 168 hours, will participate in a Career Fair after the 10:30 a.m. graduation ceremony at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance Community Kitchen, 2831 N. 31st Ave. in Phoenix.

Banks participating in the hiring event are Wells Fargo, Bank of America, MidFirst Bank, Western Alliance Bank, Comerica Bank and AmTrust Bank.

“BankWork$ is an intensive program that prepares graduates to be able to start careers as tellers, customer service representatives or personal bankers in an industry with tremendous opportunities for growth,” said AWEE President and CEO Marie Sullivan. “Their sales and customer service training will put them on a career path that will mean financial stability for them and for their families.“

Start date for upcoming BankWork$ trainings at AWEE are April 13, July 20 and October 17.

BankWork$ launched in 2006 in Los Angeles and currently places about 200 graduates each year. By 2019, BankWork$ will operate 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$ successfully placed more than 800 graduates who were hired by banks and other financial institutions.

BankWork$ achieves a graduation rate of approximately 75 percent and is placing approximately 70 percent of graduates with partner banks each year. BankWork$ graduates also stay employed in their jobs: retention rates for 2012 BankWork$ graduates showed that 86 percent were employed six months after their hire date and 72 percent one year from their hire date.

BankWork$ classes are free for participants.

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.