Bilingual Graduate Adriana Flores Helps Serve Chicago’s Hispanic Community 

“If I don’t make this call now, then when will I?” 

That was the question Chicago resident Adriana Flores was asking herself in late 2019 as she considered applying for the BankWork$® program with our training partner Association House of Chicago. A friend who had already completed the eight-week, free comprehensive career development program and been hired immediately by an employer partner, had recommended it to Adriana.  

After working in retail early in her career, Adriana had been a stay-at-home mom the previous two years, and she was ready for a change. 

“I needed a better future for me and my son,” says Adriana.  

So Adriana made the call and applied for the BankWork$ program. In January 2020, Adriana started the eight-week career development program. 

At first, Adriana says, she was hesitant and out of her “comfort zone” after being out of the workforce for several years. But Adriana settled in; her instructor’s talent and the value of hearing from multiple employer partners from across the financial services industry, who spoke to the class about their different roles and approaches, helped her s 

In March 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic growing, her BankWork$ program shifted to a virtual model. Instead of the typical in-person graduation celebration and career fair with employer partners, the graduates participated in a virtual format. 

After interviewing with several banks, Adriana accepted an offer from Chicago-based Byline Bank.  

“BankWork$ helped me get my foot in the door. That was the first step. They gave me the opportunity, and then it was on me,” says Adriana. After starting in a part-time Teller role, Adriana then took on a full-time role, and is now a Senior Teller. 

And Adriana isn’t the only BankWork$ graduate at Byline Bank: two of her fellow graduates from her cohort also joined the Byline Bank team. 

As a Senior Teller, Adriana brings another skill to help serve the mostly Hispanic community in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood: a native Spanish speaker, she is fluent in both English and Spanish. That’s allowed Adriana to help serve the bank’s Spanish-speaking customers, acting as a translator for many of their customers who don’t speak English.  

“Language accessibility is a challenge for many in this community to financial stability.”  

More than half of our program graduates are fluent in two or more languages, making banking accessible for communities where English fluency could be a barrier.  

As Adriana grows her career, her advice to others considering BankWork$ and a career in financial services it to “go for it. There’s a lot you can learn and you can pass a lot of that on to your family to help them be more financially stable. You never know what opportunities can come from it. Joining BankWork$ was the best decision I could have made. I made good friends who I have the pleasure of working with now and met a lot of great people along the way as well. I now have a stable career, and I can’t wait for what the future holds.” 


Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: Bilingual Instructor Luz Hernandez with Partner Association House of Chicago Helps “Improve Lives and Communities”

Born in Michoacan, Mexico on a small farm, Luz Hernandez came to the United States with her family as an immigrant, as her parents worked to “provide us with better opportunities”– support she now provides to community members as a BankWork$® Instructor with our partner Association House of Chicago.   

For Luz, her work is rooted in a strong desire to help those around her.  

Continue reading “Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: Bilingual Instructor Luz Hernandez with Partner Association House of Chicago Helps “Improve Lives and Communities””

Three Ways CareerWork$ Adapted to Meet the Challenge of the COVID Pandemic and Continue Our Impact

Over the past 18 months, organizations across the country navigated the rapid changes of the pandemic. CareerWork$ worked closely with partners around the country to adapt, pivot, and pivot again—and as a result, we’re still marking milestones like graduations and job placements among our graduates.  

Here are three ways we adapted and continued our impact during the pandemic: 

A New Program: CareerWork$ Ready: Early in the pandemic, we launched a new job readiness programCareerWork$® Ready, a condensed, three-week program designed for individuals seeking their first job, as well as those who are looking to re-enter the workforce., in a broad range of industries. We provide community organizations with the curricula they need to offer virtual or in-person training for job seekers in underserved communities. The program leverages the curricula from our proven BankWork$® and CareerWork$® Medical programs and includes one-on-one sessions and group trainings with a job coach, creating a personalized experience in real time, and standing out from many other pre-recorded programs. 

Making Classes Digital: As we launched CareerWork$ Ready online, we also digitized our BankWork$ and CareerWork$ Medical® curricula, making it possible for our training partners to offer courses through hybrid models while complying with public health guidelines. Moving the curriculum content online meant students also gained digital skills and practiced holding virtual meetings and online collaboration tools—skills and experience necessary in the “new normal” for many careers. 

Making Graduations and Job Fairs Digital: Ask any graduate, or any employer—our graduations and job fairs, where each graduate interviews with each employer partner, is part of what makes CareerWork$ so impactful. We celebrate the hard work and dedication of participants, and they receive far more personal attention than they might during a standard job fair or online application process. During the pandemic, we adapted to ensure we could continue our graduations and jobs fairs by pivoting to a virtual model; immediately following the virtual graduation events, our graduates met 1:1 virtually with employers in their region for job interviews. As we look to the future, we are hopeful and energized for what’s next – especially as we recently hit an important milestone: 4,000 graduates placed into jobs with career growth potential.   

Thanks to these steps and collaboration with our training partners around the country, CareerWork$ is poised for our next phase of growth— expanding with new partners, new staff, potential for new training programs, and new ideas for the future. Our work has never felt more vital, and as the pandemic has highlighted the long-standing inequities for BIPOC community members, the need for our last-mile training programs has never been so clear. 


2020 BankWork$® Graduate Leah Bright Featured Speaker at Pennsylvania Bankers Association Young Professionals Conference

Leah Bright, a 2021 graduate of the BankWork$ program with our training partner Philadelphia OIC, was a featured speaker at the recent Pennsylvania Bankers Association 2021 Young Professionals Conference, where she shared her career journey to a role with our employer partner Citizens Bank 

Earlier this year, Leah was seeking a new career. Her mother first told her about BankWork$; she had seen a flyer advertising the program with Philadelphia OIC at her workplace.  

“I knew I had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Leah recalled. 

She applied, was accepted, and began the program in a hybrid model that was adopted during the pandemic, with some classes in person and others taught live via Zoom sessions. 

For Leah, the free, comprehensive, eight-week program offered the communications and workplace skills she needed to launch a new career, along with the industry-specific skills and knowledge. 

“Because of BankWork$, I could really understand and learn the ins and outs of the financial services industry.” 

In her remarks, Leah also thanked Philadelphia OIC BankWork$ Instructor Shantelle Faison for her support and encouragement before and after the program. Calling Shantelle her mentor, Leah said she “added fuel to the flame, which I needed at the time.” 

The day of her graduation in Spring 2021, Leah and her fellow graduates participated in a key feature of BankWork$: one-on-one interviews with multiple employer partners in the region. 

A week later, Leah received an offer from Citizens Bank. 

Today, as Leah grows in her new career, her goal is to “run my own branch and impact the lives of emerging leaders.” 

The Pennsylvania Bankers Association has been a strong supporter of the BankWork$ program since 2017, a key partner in expanding the program to Pittsburgh and an advocate for our programs with Pennsylvania banks. Their support of BankWork$ graduates like Leah is a testament to our shared commitment to opening more doors to meaningful careers in the financial services industry. 


“BankWork$ Gave Me the Blueprint to Launch My Career”: 2019 Graduate Tama Robinson Reflects on Her Path to Her New Career in Financial Services

Tama Robinson’s journey to her new career started with her car radio.  

The lifelong Milwaukee resident was driving when she heard an advertisement for the inaugural BankWork$ class with our training partner Employ Milwaukee. Tama quickly jotted down the number and made the call. With a new class starting in two weeks, Tama raced to meet the application deadline. After receiving support from Instructor Adrienne Wright, she applied online – and was accepted.  

For Tama, it was the right opportunity at the right time. After working in long-term care for a decade, she was eager for a transition into a career in financial services.  

“I knew I had a passion to help people – and I knew I wanted a career where feel like I did something to help someone that day. I knew I could transfer those skills into the financial services sector.”  

With her customer service skills from her career in long-term care, Tama was eager to dive into the BankWork$ program and learn the industry-specific skills she’d need to thrive in a new career. 

“As class started, I was able to take those transferable skills and move them into a new industry. BankWork$ put the puzzle together.” 

As graduation approached near the end of the eight-week program, representatives from several area employers came to class to speak with students about their hiring process and their culture. As part of the program’s post-graduation job fair, Tama had the chance to interview with a number of employers in the region immediately after the graduation ceremony. 

One of those banks was Prime Financial Credit Union, which offered Tama a position following her graduation. 

Since starting with Prime Financial two years ago, Tama has already been promoted – twice. Today, she’s an Assistant Branch Manager. 

“BankWork$ gave me the blueprint to launch my career,” says Tama. “They give you the outline, and then it’s up to you to fill it in to succeed.” 

“We had high hopes for our very first BankWork$ class at Employ Milwaukee, and like many of her peers, Tama thrived. Tama was hardworking, committed, and driven to build a new career,” said Adrienne Wright, BankWork$ Instructor with Employ Milwaukee. “We knew she would do a great job and be successful as she demonstrating care and leadership in class. It’s an honor and privilege to be part of a program supporting amazing people like Tama as they start lasting, meaningful careers.” 

For those considering the BankWork$ program, Tama says simply to “go for it. They put you in a position to succeed. You won’t regret it.”