CareerWork$® Reorganizes to Become Affiliate of Washington Bankers Association

Seattle, WA—CareerWork$, a nonprofit national workforce development organization, is pleased to announce a new chapter in its history by reorganizing to become an affiliate of the Washington Bankers Association (WBA), the largest trade association for banks in Washington state. 

CareerWork$ operates BankWork$®, CareerWork$ Medical® and CareerWork$® Ready. Each program provides free job training focused on the banking and medical fields and general job preparation. The WBA leads the banking industry as a premier provider of advocacy and education.  The WBA first endorsed the BankWork$ program in 2015. 

“This collaboration is a testament to our shared vision of empowering community members within the banking industry and beyond. By joining forces, we leverage our collective strengths to enhance the quality and accessibility of career development programs, financial education, and professional training services. The BankWork$ program has been at the forefront of career advancement, providing resources, mentorship, and training to individuals aspiring to a new career in the banking industry. Their dedication to creating pathways for success aligns perfectly with the state banking association’s mission to support the banking community through education, innovation, and community service,” said Glen Simecek, president and CEO of WBA. 

Under the reorganization, members of the banking community and participants of the BankWork$ program will benefit from an expanded range of resources designed to foster professional growth and industry innovation. Together, both organizations will work to ensure that individuals across the country have the tools and support they need to thrive in their careers. 

“We are excited to embark on this journey with CareerWork$,” said Simecek. “Throughout our longstanding partnership with the BankWork$ program, we’ve seen the powerful opportunity it provides to enrich the lives of those looking for a new opportunity while offering the banking industry eager talent excited for a new career. We look forward to our combined efforts’ positive impact on our communities and employers.” 

Les Biller, founder of CareerWork$ and co-founder of the Sheri and Les Biller Foundation, added, “I’m proud of how we have been able to expand the program over the last two decades. Together with our training partners, we have helped thousands of individuals land careers in the financial services and healthcare industries.  I believe the Washington Bankers Association will bring the leadership, expertise, and networks to support CareerWork$ to help even more people across the country.  I am confident that this transition will not only maintain but accelerate the momentum of this important work, supporting the launch of many more careers for deserving individuals. The Biller Family Foundation looks forward to continuing to invest in the program.” 

The WBA and CareerWork$ are committed to a seamless collaboration, ensuring that all existing and future programs operate at the highest level of excellence. CareerWork$ currently operates programs in 14 cities across 8 states. CareerWork$ will operate as an affiliate of the WBA, with access to expanded partnerships through the WBA’s network. Further details will be announced in the coming months. 

For more information about the WBA, please visit To learn more about CareerWork$ and its programs, visit 

About the WBA: 

Founded in 1889, the Washington Bankers Association is Washington State’s largest financial services trade association, representing commercial banks in every county. 

About CareerWork$: 

CareerWork$ is a national nonprofit organization that connects young adults from under-resourced communities to lasting, stable careers through free training and builds supportive partnerships advancing equitable economic stability. 

CareerWork$ Announces Jamelah Yoakum as the Newest Recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award 

Jamelah Yoakum, a resilient individual with a passion for healthcare, embarked on a journey filled with challenges and triumphs. Two years ago, she set her sights on a career in the medical field, enrolling in a certification class. However, tragedy struck when she faced the loss of her brother to a senseless act of violence. Despite the heartbreak, with time Jamelah persisted and joined the CareerWork$ Medical program at SE Works in Portland, OR, where she balanced rigorous coursework with her job as a makeup artist.  During the 8 week program, Jamelah encountered yet another devastating setback as she lost another brother to an untimely death. Overwhelmed with grief, she contemplated dropping out of the program. However, with unwavering support from her Instructor, Valerie Harris, Jamelah found the strength to persevere. Despite the immense emotional burden she carried, Jamelah pressed on, impressing Valerie with her resilience and determination.

It is in recognition of her remarkable journey that Valerie nominated Jamelah for the Marc Hill Rising Star Award. The Marc Hill Rising Star Award recognizes a graduate of our BankWork$ or CareerWork$ Medical® programs each quarter who has shown significant personal growth and transformation from the start of their class until their graduation. Each award recipient receives a certificate and a cash award to enhance the start of their new career. The award is an integral part of CareerWork$’s ongoing effort to create pathways to meaningful careers. It also honors the life, work, and legacy of the late Marc Hill, who was an instructor for both the BankWork$ and CareerWork$® Ready programs at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. Marc passed away in late 2020, but the lessons he shared with his students epitomize our organizational values: respect, collaboration, equity, and inclusion.

Today, Jamelah proudly serves as a Treatment Assistant at Central City Concern, where her compassion and dedication shine through in her work. Jamelah remains grateful for Valerie who fought for her to follow through with the program despite the immense challenges.  Recently, the CareerWork$ and SE Works teams surprised Jamelah with a virtual celebration call.  Reflecting on her journey, CareerWork$ National Director Latoya Edmond praised Jamelah’s unwavering commitment to her goals and said “It’s unfortunate situations that, when they happen, show us how strong we can be.  You know that nothing can stop you if you continue to show up every day like you did with this program”. This month is Jamelah’s brother’s birthday month, and being recognized today holds extra significance for Jamelah.  Jamelah R. Yoakum’s journey serves as a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to overcome even the most formidable challenges. Her story inspires us all to persevere in the pursuit of our dreams, no matter the obstacles we face.

Climbing mountains to support CareerWork$

“Lots of folks are going through the challenging situation of finding a career and not just a job.  We all want to grow, we all want to ascend to new heights and take care of our families.”

In June 2023, Pedro Marti, a dedicated philanthropist and board member of CareerWork$®, undertook an extraordinary mission known as the 29029 Challenge in Sun Valley, California. This challenge involved completing 15 hikes, each 1.6 miles long, covering a vertical climb of 29,655 feet in just 36 hours—equivalent to a climb higher than Mount Everest. Pedro’s commitment went beyond a personal feat; he was on a mission to inspire others to give and donate to causes he deeply cared about. Pedro pledged to donate $1.00 for every foot climbed and encouraged his personal network to join the cause in supporting four non-profit organizations close to his heart, including CareerWork$.

“Challenging myself to climb almost 30,000 vertical feet in what turned out to be the most difficult physical journey of my life was the least I could do to honor all my friends at CareerWork$.  CareerWork$ and our partners are moving the needle in economic opportunity and helping those that are ready, willing and able to help themselves.  I am proud of them, proud of myself and appreciative of all those that contributed based on my feet climbed count.  Forever grateful for the 29029 journey and its inspiration to go for more one step at a time.”

After 33.5 hours, 30,000 feet climbed, and more than 13,000 calories burned, Pedro successfully completed the challenge. Thanks to the generosity of supporters, Pedro’s efforts resulted in raising over $50,000 to date for CareerWork$ which is making a substantial impact on our work.

Congratulations, Pedro, on your remarkable accomplishment and thank you for your support of CareerWork$ and other non-profit organizations!

How The Washington Bankers Association Supports and Impacts BankWork$ Graduates

Since 1889, the Washington Bankers Association (WBA) has been a crucial guiding force in shaping the direction of banking in Washington and beyond. By working closely with government regulators and policymakers, they help keep banks informed about the changing national landscape in the banking industry. 

We are fortunate to collaborate with the WBA through BankWork$®, our free training program that helps young adults build meaningful careers in banking through placement assistance and ongoing coaching to emphasize the importance of storytelling, community building, and sharing success stories. “Being present at every BankWork$ graduation is a way for us to demonstrate our commitment,” said Duncan Taylor, Senior Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer at WBA. “It’s exciting to see the passion and potential of each graduate, knowing they represent the future of banking. Our partnership demonstrates our commitment to building a diverse and skilled workforce. The WBA actively assists BankWork$ graduates by offering avenues for career growth,” adds Duncan. 

Megan Managan, Director of Public Affairs at WBA, highlights how BankWork$ doesn’t just launch careers; it changes lives. “We’ve seen individuals thrive, and their stories become a central part of our push for a strong and inclusive banking sector.” WBA’s commitment to the future goes beyond supporting laws and policies. They invest in programs that prepare the next generation of bankers, such as our BankWork$ grads. WBA is dedicated to advocating for new ideas in banking, promoting growth, education, diversity, and community impact, and supporting projects that make communities better. 

Learn more about the Washington Bankers Association. 

Transformative Opportunities: Yevhen Stanishevskyi’s American Dream Through BankWork$ 

Yevhen Stanishevskyi’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of opportunity and resilience. Forced to move his entire family from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2022 due to the impact of war, Yevhen faced a challenging transition to life in the United States. Armed with a master’s degree in banking and previous experience as a Branch Manager, he still struggled to find a position in banking. However, when he discovered BankWork$® at Employ Milwaukee, not only was he able to strengthen his skills in the U.S. banking industry, but also joined a community that became a lifeline, connecting him with dedicated supporters, staff, and fellow participants who provided unwavering support.  

“I was initially skeptical about BankWork$; I couldn’t believe that such a valuable opportunity was available for free. ‘I was so impressed with the diversity of the students in my class,’ Yevhen said. “My Instructor (Adrienne Wright) brought banking experience to her teaching role, and the other staff, (Jovo Potkonjak and Oscar Delgado), helped me find additional resources to help me succeed. My fellow participants in the classroom inspired me the most to graduate. They really helped me with my conversational English skills,” said Yevhen.  

Despite the challenges of adapting to a new country and language, Yevhen’s determination paid off. After graduating from BankWork$, he secured a new career as an Associate Banker at BMO.  

“There is still much more to do, but thanks to this program, I found a new job in a new country, in a language that is not my first. I can rely on myself more and can help others now. This program not only gave me the skills for my own success but also gave me a desire to pay it forward. I love using my knowledge of banking to help others; it’s an experience that’s unusual and gratifying,” said Yevhen.  

As he reflects on his journey, Yevhen expresses profound gratitude toward his team at Employ Milwaukee for their support, including mentorship from Jovo Potkonjak, former Sector Specialist at Employ Milwaukee (pictured above). Jovo retired in December 2023, and we are incredibly grateful for his impact on Yevhen and many of the program participants he’s inspired at Employ Milwaukee. Through BankWork$ and the guidance of dedicated leaders like Jovo, Yevhen has not only found his path but has also become a valuable contributor to his community.  

Learn more about BankWork$ at Employ Milwaukee.  

CareerWork$® Announces Kiana Williamson as the Latest Recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award 

Before her involvement with BankWork$®, Kiana Williamson worked as a cashier in Whittier, California. As a single mother, she navigated the challenges of living paycheck to paycheck, often sacrificing weekends and holidays without the support of benefits. Her aspiration was to establish a career that allowed her to apply her mathematical skills, promising a brighter future for herself and her daughter. When she discovered BankWork$ at JVS SoCal, she believed it could be the ticket she was looking for. 

“The BankWork$ program taught me how to dress and speak professionally. We had mock interviews and role-played to provide the best customer experience,” said Kiana. Earlier this year, she graduated from BankWork$, marking a deeply personal achievement she hadn’t experienced before. She invited her family, including her father, who was especially proud to see her graduate. 

Jynelle Sumera, Kiana’s instructor, witnessed her incredible growth throughout BankWork$. In Jynelle’s words, “This past year, Kiana decided she wanted more for herself and her daughter. At the beginning of the program, Kiana was reserved, shy, and often second-guessed herself. However, something inside Kiana shifted after the initial weeks. She fully embraced the program’s teachings, showing up early for class, dressed professionally, and always prepared. Her voice grew louder, and her confidence soared. She not only participated actively but excelled in class, becoming the next-level version of herself. Kiana’s transformation served as an inspiration to all of us.” 

Kiana reflects on Jynelle as a compassionate instructor. “She has changed my life in so many ways by providing me ongoing support in the most uncomfortable situations,” said Kiana.  She was not just an instructor to me; Jynelle is a mentor and a friend who pushed me through this process even when I was experiencing personal challenges. Because of Jynelle’s support, I am a much more confident person.” 

Today, Kiana works full-time at Banc of California, where her goals are to continue to learn and grow while she has found the work-life balance and economic independence that she and her daughter deserve. 

Kiana was recently surprised with her celebration ceremony for winning the Marc Hill Rising Star Award, where she was joined by her former instructors, her team at Banc of California, and the entire CareerWork$ team.

The Marc Hill Rising Star Award recognizes a graduate of our BankWork$ or CareerWork$ Medical® programs each quarter who has shown significant personal growth and transformation from the start of their class until their graduation. Each award recipient receives a certificate and a cash award to enhance the start of their new career. 

The award is an integral part of CareerWork$’s ongoing effort to create pathways to meaningful careers. It also honors the life, work, and legacy of the late Marc Hill, who was an instructor for both the BankWork$ and CareerWork$ Ready programs at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. Marc passed away in late 2020, but the lessons he shared with his students epitomize our organizational values: respect, collaboration, equity, and inclusion. 

Learn more about The Marc Hill Rising Star Award.

From BankWork$ Graduate to Branch Manager: Joselyn Cuevas’ Journey in Financial Services

Joselyn Cuevas’s financial services journey began with her graduation from BankWork$® at JVS SoCal in 2017. Since then, she has worked her way up to become a Branch Manager at Bank of the West, now BMO Bank. This summer, Joselyn was featured in a BankWork$ promotion on bus benches around Los Angeles. Check out this video to hear in her own words what BankWork$ has meant to her. 

“BankWork$ has given a person like me the opportunity to succeed. I didn’t just change my life; I changed my team’s lives. My hope is that there are many stories like mine in the future,” said Joselyn. 

From all of us at CareerWork$, congratulations on your success, Joselyn! 

Learn more about BankWork$ and JVS SoCal here: 

Turning the Page: Patrick Burke’s Journey from Odd Jobs to Banking 

Patrick Burke’s career journey had been a winding path. Bouncing from job to job to make ends meet, he went from working at a pet fulfillment center to becoming a commercial driver and later a warehouse manager. In January 2023, he stumbled upon an online ad for the BankWork$ Fundamentals program. Although Patrick was intrigued by the idea of working at a bank, he was worried about who would be willing to train him at his age. However, after a personal phone call from instructor Tanya Bashor, he was convinced to take a chance on the program. 

With no prior knowledge of the financial services industry, Patrick was concerned about learning the ins and outs of banking. “Before this class, I had never owned a professional outfit, and I’m thankful this class taught me how to dress professionally and present myself in an interview,” said Patrick. “I was nervous but excited. I had to learn various banking terms and processes, which felt overwhelming at first. But I persevered, and slowly, things started making sense. Banking was a new world for me, but I was able to find connections to all of my previous experiences, especially in customer service.” 

Tanya Bashor, Patrick’s instructor, spoke highly of him, noting his remarkable determination throughout the application process. “Patrick was very communicative about his concerns, but he always approached it with a growth mindset. He knew that this change in his career could positively impact his earning capacity in the future and set him on a path to a new career,” said Tanya. 

After graduating from BankWork$ Fundamentals in June 2023, Patrick was hired by First Commonwealth Bank and began his new role as a Financial Solutions Specialist in July. He shared, “When I started handling transactions, I could recall lessons I learned from class. On days when I’m not busy, I always try to learn something new. There have been a couple of times when I’m sitting in the bank, looking out the window, where I wish I had found such an opportunity earlier in my career because I appreciate the stability and respect that come with this role. I’m a single dad with custody of my kids, and they’ve been able to witness my journey and feel proud of my accomplishments. They got to see me go through the program, and I’m so much happier knowing I made the right choice.” 

When asked for advice for someone in a similar situation, Patrick emphasized the importance of making a list of career options and realistically evaluating each one. He recommended the BankWork$ Fundamentals program as an excellent entry point into the banking industry, highlighting the potential for growth and job security. 

Learn more about BankWork$ Fundamentals. 

BankWork$ To Expand to South Florida with New Partner: OIC of South Florida

View original press release here.

OIC of South Florida announced today that it will begin offering a brand-new training curriculum focused on preparing individuals for careers in the financial services industry. The program, called BankWork$®, begins October 9, 2023, and is a free, eight-week program offering expert-led, in-person and online sessions designed to help individuals develop the practical skills, knowledge and tools needed to pursue rewarding careers and advance in the dynamic financial services sector.

What sets the BankWorks$ program apart is its commitment to holistic development. The result of a strategic partnership between OIC of South Florida, CareerWork$® and The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), BankWork$ consists of a comprehensive curriculum that teaches banking and financial services fundamentals along with interactive, hands-on sessions centered on workforce readiness, digital literacy and employment soft skills. Upon completion, OIC of South Florida will also provide job placement assistance to help students land jobs at leading banks and credit unions in the local community.

“CareerWork$ is excited to partner with OIC South Florida to bring BankWork$ to Broward County,” said Ranko Fukuda, Interim Executive Director at CareerWork$. “With the support of the local financial services employers, we look forward to launching many new careers with excellent growth potential in South Florida!”

The partnership allows OIC of South Florida to not only continue its focus on developing in-demand skillsets, it also creates an opportunity to prepare and develop a talent pipeline for careers needed now in the modern banking industry.

“Our partnership with CareerWork$ and CAEL is invaluable to us as we continue to expand our programs to meet the immediate hiring needs of employers in our South Florida communities. This is a transformative step that empowers our community members and our employer partners to thrive,” said Newton Sanon, CEO and President of OIC of South Florida. “In a rapidly evolving financial services landscape, access to comprehensive education and practical skills is vital. BankWork$ will open doors to meaningful careers and contribute to the economic advancement of individuals and families across South Florida.”

Graduates of the program will be well-equipped to excel in entry-level positions at local banking institutions and embark on a promising, upwardly mobile career path.

“CAEL thanks OIC of South Florida for leading the charge to provide access to this short-term career-training program to the local community through Truist Foundation’s Where It Starts: Build Better Careers initiative,” said Earl Buford, president of CAEL. “Our partnership is just getting started and shows great promise as we work together to create education-to-career pathways for more individuals in the South Florida area to connect with good jobs in the financial services sector.”

OIC of South Florida invites individuals who are seeking to launch their careers in the banking industry to apply for the BankWork$ program. For eligibility criteria and application details, download our flyer.

To learn more about OIC of South Florida’s Youth and Family Services programming and more, visit


BankWork$ To Expand to Charlotte, North Carolina with New Partner: Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont

View original press release here.

Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont is partnering with CareerWork$® and The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) to train and upskill people in the Charlotte region for careers in banking.

The Charlotte region is home to more than 91,000 financial services jobs, and it is the second-largest banking center in the nation. With no other workforce development programs dedicated to the finance industry in the greater Charlotte region, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont is expanding its training division to offer the BankWork$® program so that people have equitable access to career development opportunities.

“We envision a community where equitable access to career opportunities is available for all,” said Chris Jackson, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. “We recognize that skilled training is an essential part of helping to build our growing city, and having these skills can lead to in-demand, high-potential careers. We’ve come together with CAEL and CareerWork$ to make the path to these careers possible in one of our community’s top industries.”

CareerWork$ partners with experienced workforce development and nonprofit organizations, like Goodwill, around the country to operate their programs. On a national level, the BankWork$ program has a 73% placement rate.

“CareerWork$ is thrilled to partner with Goodwill Industries of Southern Piedmont to bring BankWork$ to the Charlotte region. Through this partnership, we hope to help many in the community launch careers with excellent growth potential in the financial services industry,” said Ranko Fukuda, interim executive director.

BankWork$ is an eight-week intensive workforce services program that will give people the skills, access, and coaching needed to succeed and grow in banking careers—from understanding the financial services workplace to bank regulations, bank products, cash handling, and processing customer transactions. Graduates are prepared for roles such as: Associate Banker, Branch Banker, Client Services Representative, Lead Teller, Member Service Consultant, Personal Banker, Relationship Banker, Teller, and Call Center Representative.

Additionally, the program will engage prospective employers in the community during the duration of the program to provide industry insight and integrated recruitment opportunities.

“We look at the local business needs and participant opportunities to prosper when developing training programs for our nonprofit,“ said Raquel Lynch, chief program officer for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. “In addition to providing BankWork$ to the Charlotte community, participants enrolled in this program will also have access to family stability services, a Career Navigator and Employer Engagement Specialist for assistance with interpersonal skills, mock interviews, resume preparation, and help landing the job.”

Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont uses the revenue generated from the sale of donations throughout our retail stores and online, philanthropic donors, and grants to provide employment, job placement, job training, and certifications and credentials for anyone looking to improve their skills and grow their careers. The BankWork$ program is also offered free of charge but will provide participants with a stipend of $15 an hour during their training to support them on their journey toward a new career.

“CAEL is grateful for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont’s leadership in bringing this much-needed short-term career training program to the Charlotte community through Truist Foundation’s Where It Starts: Build Better Careers initiative,” said Earl Buford, president of CAEL. “We’re excited to see how our partnership with Goodwill and CareerWork$ continues to unfold as we work together to create opportunities for more individuals in the Charlotte area to connect with good jobs in the financial services sector.”