Free Training Program for Careers in Banking: Harborstone & BankWork$

Harborstone Credit Union supports free program striving to bring more diversity to banking

September 9, 2019

It’s not every day that three students receive job offers from the same organization, but that’s exactly what happened at a recent BankWork$ graduation ceremony. Harborstone Credit Union made offers to three BankWork$ graduates, welcoming them into new careers in banking at locations including Harborstone’s Issaquah branch.

BankWork$ – a free, eight-week career training program – is an integral part of Harborstone’s community outreach. The program supports unemployed or underemployed adults from diverse backgrounds to prepare for careers in banking. It focuses on communities where adults may lack access to employment opportunities in areas where financial institutions have entry-level hiring needs.

“Historically, the banking industry lacked diversity and there was a high bar to enter the field,” explained Connor Lewis, District Manager (Pierce County), Harborstone Credit Union. “This meant that banking had a small potential talent pool with a narrower skill set, and that employees were not representative of the communities they served. The BankWork$ program is helping to change the status quo, offering more people from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to gain skills to help them land that first job in banking.”

BankWork$ helps participants prepare for entry-level positions that have career potential, including teller, customer service representative, relationship banker, and personal banker, which are the main entry points for people without college degrees. The program covers Banking 101—all the basics you need to know to successfully enter the field.

Harborstone began supporting BankWorks$ in 2012 in the Seattle area and ramped up its involvement 2018 when the program expanded to Tacoma. Harborstone employees also have the opportunity to volunteer as mentors and instructors in each BankWork$ program session.

“Harborstone has really put its arms around BankWork$ and has hired 17 program graduates in the years since our first involvement,” said Lewis. “The level of talent we see in the program is stellar. You could say the program levels the playing field for candidates, but it also opens doors. We’re seeing military spouses, immigrants seeking second careers, people who have taken extended career breaks, and people with poor credit history graduate from the program—and they are all excellent job candidates who otherwise wouldn’t have pursued a career in banking.”

At each BankWork$ graduation, participants interview for open positions with industry partners immediately following the ceremony. Over the past 13 years, more than 2,600 graduates have secured positions across the country.

“As a District Manager for Harborstone, it is incredibly gratifying to see the level of engagement each student has displayed during interactions I’ve had with them,” said Bonn Valera, whose focus is King County. “Their enthusiasm serves as motivation to me and others because of genuineness in wanting to do better in life, and probably more importantly to help others by choosing a career that will make a financial impact of the members they serve.”

“This was evident during my most recent presentation at BankWork$ regarding Harborstone, as participants raised their hands and asked questions to myself and a colleague,” continued Valera.  “The questions weren’t centered on the benefits of working for Harborstone, but more of our why and the things we do. They asked, ‘How have you helped members? What ways have you helped other people?  What do you do for the community? What impact have you made to others.’  These were just a few examples of what the soon-to-be graduates asked. It is no wonder why the rate of retention and job offers are high, because they exemplify what it means to care about helping others and that they can make a difference. This is why I appreciate partnering with BankWork$.”

There’s a marked difference in retention with BanksWork$ graduates. Banking typically sees high-turnover in entry-level positions, but 78% of BankWork$ graduates remain employed by the same organization a year later.

Lewis, who also volunteers as a BankWork$ instructor, shared the program’s impact on Harborstone’s recruiting efforts, “At a recent BankWork$ graduation, we interviewed 23 candidates in four hours. We made job offers on the spot to several candidates. In this highly-competitive job market, you can’t replicate these results with any other recruiting method.”

Harborstone greatly values the opportunity to support BankWork$ and looks forward to welcoming the next group of students to the program. “We strive to support the communities we serve,” explained Lewis. “BankWork$ doesn’t simply help people get a job, it helps them to start a fulfilling career with growth potential. And, anytime you can help a member of the community succeed, it’s immensely rewarding.”

Harborstone Credit Union’s Issaquah branch is located at Grand Ridge Plaza in Issaquah Highlands at 1011 NE High St.