Staff Highlight: Michael Barnes
Michael is one of our new staff members part of the Workforce program at the house. He returned to Association House as our new Career Navigator after having graduated from our financial careers training program six years ago. He decided to come back because, after five and a half years, he believed it was time to pass on his banking knowledge.
What are your thoughts on this new role that you have? Can you describe to me what it is?
So, I am a career navigator and what that entails is that for a part of the recruitment process, I go out and find quality candidates for our program. Whether at town hall meetings or the unemployment office, I’m in charge of that recruitment process.
Another aspect of my job is to encourage our students while they’re going through the program – whether it be Monday Motivations, etc. – to find out why their motivation may have waned a little bit. In the beginning, everything is like ‘OK I’m ready to do this! You know, I’m ready to start’ an adult higher education program. But something happens that third week and it’s my job to kind of pump that motivation back into them. Then make sure that they finish our program strongly.
And then I’ll be instructing also. With me being an instructor is to find out those things that make this participant special and introduce them to a new professional career. One that they can gain a lot of things from versus working at a traditional grocery store. In introducing them to a professional world and keeping them engaged I’m just enhancing their lives on a bigger level.
When you say that BankWork$ gave you more knowledge and more education about working in an industry that allows you to know banking, what’s the value for someone who doesn’t have knowledge about what to do with their money?
Pretty much I’ve never been a good saver prior to BankWork$. In my early 30s when I graduated from the program and now with a family, it taught me to put money to the side or get my credit up. And working inside a bank you get that head-on knowledge, and you see it in real life every day. From Ms. Joe or Mr. Joe and their mistakes, you get to help them and so you’re also applying those lessons to your life. When you’re financially educated your whole world changes. That’s the magic about BankWork$: giving people real-world life experience.
Why did you connect with us in the first place? What was it about your understanding of us, or this program, or the environment that made you feel comfortable trusting this partnership?
It all started with me trusting myself first. Before I came to AHC I was a store manager for ‘Ross Dress for Less.’ I wanted to see myself as a professional. I’ve always had that vision of myself and having a professional career. In my mind, I know that I’m good at talking to people, and I have had cash handling experience. Those two together…that’s banking. I didn’t know if I was strong enough yet to go into a bank head-on and knew I might need some training. So, I Googled it: ‘where can I get banking training?’ And, hey, BankWork$ was a free, 8-week program. And when you graduate you get a job. OK, let me check it out!
I enrolled in the program and saw the process. I asked, can I do this? With the guidance of our instructor and the staff – being so hands on – that level of trust was just natural. I think the program and AHC are designed to know how to work with people with issues. They know what to say and how to navigate you through so that they can be successful.
For me? To potentially get a job afterward, too. So, for myself, it began with trusting me first and then naturally getting my confidence and in banking. For others? Knowing that, ‘wow, you know this is a pretty easy thing to do’. Dealing with money is not hard and a lot of our participants think about that first. But it’s our job to put them at ease and let them know that they got this.
How did you feel when you graduated and were then hired by U.S. Bank? How did it feel to leave AHC and go into the professional setting that you were looking for?
I started with U.S. Bank with someone without the training. I could see the difference in the training. Usually, in banking, you sit at the computer and then you go at your own pace and when you’re done, they put you out on the floor. With me, I had hands-on experience, so things like bundling and strapping I already knew. I was pretty much ready to go. I was just so much more ready and capable of getting the job started. I started out as a universal banker. In a year I was selling at the top of my bank. And then I became a senior banker two years after that. So that program allowed me to navigate and move up fast.
Why now? Why us? Why did you return to AHC from your professional career?
Well, five-and-a-half years is a long time, and with the bank knowledge that I have it’s time for me to pass it on. Already going through the program I’m more than fit to navigate our participants through their gray area. To let them know, ‘you’re going to be a professional’. With benefits, paid holidays. Things that you can’t get from a Kroger’s or a Food 4 Less – that will enhance their lives full on. That’s why I came back. Because I just felt like I’ve been through it, and I had been where they are. Some of my participants now reach out and ask, “what was this like for you?” I’m able to give them that real life experience and they adopt that understanding – that I’m not in this alone.