WorkForce Central's letter headerCONTACT: CHRISTIAN CAPLE, 253.254.7341

BURIEN, Wash. – Tawanda Nance has held many different jobs over the last 20 years. She worked in a call center. She helped locate underground utilities. She helped install fiber-optic cables. In between, she had three kids and went to school off-and-on.

Now, thanks to the BankWork$ program expanding to Pierce County, she is ready for more than just another new job. She’s ready for a career.

“This has kind of helped me do an overall evaluation of how I’ve carried myself over the years, and whether I was really looking for a career then,” said Nance, who lives in Tacoma. “Now, I know I am.”

Nance was one of 12 BankWork$ graduates in the most recent Tacoma class to walk across the stage Aug. 17 at the Highline Performing Arts Center in Burien. Two other classes of BankWork$ students – from Lakewood and Seattle – also graduated that day.

Founded in 2006 by Les Biller, former Chief Operating Officer at Wells Fargo, BankWork$ is a free, intensive, eight-week training program administered locally by the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish Counties. On behalf of the Pierce County Workforce Development Council (WDC) and the Chief Local Elected Officials, WorkForce Central provided funding to bring the program into Pierce County, teaming with YWCA and several banks and credit unions to provide a proven, sustainable workforce development solution right here in the local community.

Heather Nadeau, Vice President/Talent Acquisition Director for Columbia Bank in Tacoma, said Columbia became a BankWork$ partner because the program provides “access to well-trained, educated graduates who are interested in a career in banking,” and it allows Columbia to “give back to the communities in a meaningful way that has the ability to change the direction of their lives.”

The program is designed to prepare its participants for a career in banking, particularly for high-turnover, entry-level positions such as teller, customer service representative and personal banker. The goal is for each student to land a job within 30 days of graduating, and for each graduate to leave the program with a defined career path. In 2016, 77 percent of BankWork$ enrollees graduated, and 75 percent of graduates were hired into jobs in the financial services industry – and even if graduates aren’t hired right away, the BankWork$ team works to help find them a job for up to six months after graduation.

Perhaps just as importantly, the program helps equip students with the essential skills necessary to succeed in a job interview – how to dress, how to project confidence, how to communicate in a professional setting – and excel once they’ve landed the job they want.

“You get discouraged when you’re looking for a job,” Nance said. “Not knowing the things that employers look for. Not knowing the key phrases, not knowing what they’re looking for when they’re wanting to potentially hire you. That was very valuable from this program.”

Shelley McHugh, the instructor for the most recent Tacoma class – held at Goodwill – marvels at the transformation students undergo throughout the eight-week course.

“They come to the interview in hoodies and flip-flops, and slouching in their chair, and maybe not projecting that they truly want to be a part of it,” McHugh said. “And by the end of the eight weeks, I think besides the fact that they’re dressed differently, it’s the confidence they show that is just remarkable.”

Nance heard about BankWork$ after visiting a WorkSource location and receiving a flyer. She had been injured at her previous job, was transitioning from L&I to unemployment, and needed to find work in a less physically demanding field. The financial industry already appealed to her, so she applied for the program, went through the interview process and was accepted.

“I came from a background where I’ve been on my own for a while,” Nance said. “At the age of 14, I started going to work and doing things to survive. I never thought I would see myself here. This is one of the greatest accomplishments for me.”

Her kids are proud of her, too. Nance said they were more than happy to help her practice her 30-second commercial, and her daughter acted as her customer as she practiced balancing a cash drawer. Her daughter is even interested in applying for BankWork$ herself, once she graduates from high school.

“She’s been so excited about what I’ve done, and how my whole attire has changed,” Nance said. “My confidence has changed, and now she’s even more excited about joining the program whenever her opportunity comes available.”

After walking across the stage, Nance and her fellow graduates immediately entered a lobby where representatives from partner banks were waiting to conduct job interviews.

She admitted to being a little nervous for that part. But she was confident, too, thanks in large part to the lessons imparted during her eight weeks in the BankWork$ program.

Those are lessons she hopes to pass along to her children.

“As long as I stay confident, that alone sets an impression for them, for their future,” Nance said. “No matter what you want to do, believe in yourself, stick with it, stay consistent, and you’ll succeed.”

To learn more about BankWork$, visit http://bankworks.org/. Banks and credit unions interested in becoming sponsors are encouraged to contact Mercedes Rippel at mrippel@ywcaworks.org or 253-736-2301.

WorkForce Central strengthens the Pierce County economy by identifying skill gaps between jobseekers and employment opportunities, fostering data-driven decision making, and connecting workforce development partners into a cohesive, collaborative and effective network.

###