Tiffany Lassiter is looking forward to pursing a new career in the financial sector.

She tapped into the BankWork$ program, a free eight-week initiative that trains young adults from low-income and minority communities for careers in the banking industry.

On Wednesday, Lassiter joined the first cohort of BankWork$ in Philadelphia who graduated from the program.

“I was coming from a background where I was working in the restaurant industry and I was ready for a shift in career,” said Lassiter, who is a former line cook at Applebee’s.

As a little girl, she envisioned becoming a businesswoman who carried a briefcase. Now the 30-year-old mother of four children is positioned to see her dreams become reality.

“Now I see my dream as a child is coming to fruition and it’s a very humbling experience,” Lassiter said as she reflected on participating in the program.

“Being in BankWork$ I received a lot of information that is going to set me forward in my new career.”

She and 12 other graduates received the opportunity to network with eight area banks and be interviewed for jobs in their new field during a graduation ceremony held Wednesday at Philadelphia OIC.

The graduates are equipped with the skills needed to be hired as bank tellers, customer service representatives and personal bankers.

“We at Philadelphia OIC are proud to send this first class of BankWork$ graduates out of the classroom and into the world to utilize all of the skills and knowledge they’ve obtained over the past eight weeks,” said Kevin R. Johnson, the president and CEO of Philadelphia OIC.

“These students came to us with a goal in mind and now they’ve achieved it and can begin a new chapter of their lives as banking industry professionals.”

The graduation ceremony featured a keynote speech by City Council President Darrell Clarke who championed bringing BankWork$ to Philadelphia.

The graduates received words of encouragement from Atif Bostic, Philadelphia OIC board chair and executive director of Uplift Solutions, and Duncan Campbell, president of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association.

“At its heart banking is a people business – it’s about fulfilling people’s dreams,” Campbell said, as he addressed the graduates.

“Bankers are dream makers and that is what we are building through the BankWork$ program — a new cohort of dream makers.”

The first class of Philadelphia BankWork$ graduates is a diverse group ranging from young students interested in entering the banking industry to older adults aspiring to start second careers.

For example, Sharon Webster, a 51-year-old program participant, is changing her career later in life.

“I was feeling unfulfilled in my old job,” said Webster, who is a former claims administrator.

“Not only has BankWork$ given me the skills and opportunity to transition to a second career in a short period of time, but it has also helped me form relationships with the other participants. It’s truly been a wonderful experience.”

BankWork$ was started in 2006 in Los Angeles by the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation.

The program has since grown to offer classes in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. As part of a five-year, $4 million national expansion in partnership with Bank of America, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, the program will expand to 15 markets by 2019. The Philadelphia BankWork$ program is the first Northeast location and the 10th nationwide.

To date, nationally, the program has achieved a graduate rate of 77 percent and a job placement rate of 75 percent.

Through a series of seminars and lessons taught by banking professionals, program participants learn about the industry and the soft and hard skills that will them to earn sustainable careers in the banking industry.

Applications are currently being accepted for the second session of BankWork$ classes, which will begin Jan. 16. For information, call Shantelle Faison at (215) 236-7700 ext. 350.

ajones@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5747

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