African Americans recruited for banking jobs via BankWork$


by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer

With major financial corporations like Bank of America and Chase moving into the Pittsburgh market, there will be a greater need for frontline banking personnel. That need, in turn, has created an opportunity to address the historic lack of racial diversity in the banking industry by putting African Americans in those entry-level positions.

Partner4Work, the PA Bankers Association, and several local financial institutions announced last week that they intend to seize that opportunity by rolling out the BankWork$ program to train unemployed and underemployed African Americans for those entry-level positions.

“This is a potent program,” said Partner4Work CEO Earl Buford during the Aug. 21 announcement at the Jeron X. Grayson Center in the Hill District. “And Citizens Bank has committed $75,000 in new money, $95,000 overall, to this. In total there’s $250,000 of public, industry and philanthropy going into this—and there’s a firm commitment to hire these graduates.”

BankWork$ is a program of the Biller Family Foundation based in Seattle. Les Biller, a former COO of Wells Fargo & Co., and Sheri Biller, a community activist and volunteer, launched BankWork$ in 2006. It operates in 13 other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Dallas, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia.

REPRESENTATIVES FROM CHASE BANK, at BankWork$, an initiative of Partner4Work. BankWork$ aims to help African Americans obtain banking jobs. (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)

It was designed by the banking industry to train people with employment barriers to become qualified candidates for entry-level positions such as tellers, customer service representatives and personal bankers. They receive soft-skills training, coaching and mentoring, information about career pathways, interview prep, and other hands-on activities.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Hill District residents to get trained in the banking industry,” said Pittsburgh Penguins Deputy Counsel and HR Director Tracey McCants Lewis. “This is about more than jobs, it’s about careers in banking and beyond.”

The training is free to qualified applicants—meaning they are 18, have a high school diploma or GED, and have no criminal record. Classes will be offered at the Energy Innovation Center and will run for eight weeks, beginning Oct. 1.

Mark Price, First Commonwealth CEO and chair of the PA Bankers Association, was impressed with the program’s success in Philadelphia.

“In 2017, the association signed an agreement with BankWork$ and graduated 140 individuals, 75 percent were hired the day they graduated,” he said. “The future of banking in Pittsburgh is bright.”

In addition to Citizens and First Commonwealth, support for the program comes from PNC Bank, Bank of America Corp., Northwest Bank, Dollar Bank, Huntington Bank, S&T Bank, and The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Recruiting is already underway. Buford said the effort will be robust and will include CareerLinks, various community groups and targeted outreach. For more information on the program, contact Partner4Work at 412-552-7090.


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