As just one of their member and community-friendly missions, credit unions strive to educate young people and help them become responsible, financially literate members of society. This mission is fulfilled through initiatives including dedicated financial literacy programs, youth-oriented products and services, social media presence, and scholarship opportunities, to name a few. Another unique way in which CUs are reaching out to young people today is through internship programs.
Generally, the credit unions offering internship opportunities view their programs as multipurpose. They’re not only exposing youth to real-life work experiences in professional settings but also giving them insight into the credit union world – they’re helping develop successful future leaders which, in turn, improves the local communities and the world at large.
Although each credit union’s internship program is unique in what it teaches and entails, they all share some common features including valuable on-the-job training and the opportunity to grow as a professional.
Air Academy Federal Credit Union (Colorado Springs, CO) offers an annual High School Internship Program. Beginning during the summer months and continuing through the end of the school year, the program is open to students entering their junior or senior year of high school in one of the 10 school districts in AAFCU’s field of membership. This paid internship allows interns to work up to 35 hours per week during the summer months with a reduced schedule during the school year of at least two days per week after school, and Saturdays.
AAFCU offers this structured program to a limited number of high school students interested in gaining experience in the financial services field. “Our High School Internship Program provides students the opportunity to learn about AAFCU’s financial products and services, as well as develop career skills in a professional work environment,” said Kira Schubert, Marketing & Public Relations Manager. “It also provides students an opportunity to be mentored by leaders within the organization as they receive training in various locations in our Operations Department.”
AAFCU launched the internship program in the spring of 2012 to replace their Student Branch Program. As technology began transforming the banking industry and AAFCU’s business model shifted away from a branch-based model to one focused on providing electronic delivery channels, the CU wanted to make the learning experience more relevant for students.
Schubert says their goal is for interns to gain valuable work experience as an integral part of a team in a professional environment. “They learn entry level banking processes and procedures, become knowledgeable about CU products and services, as well as about CU operations and philosophies – they’re exposed to and learn about the interview process, and develop valuable career skills such as customer service, cross-selling, problem solving/reasoning abilities, and professionalism.”
While most interns work in front-line, branch operation type positions, Schubert said that interns who express an interest in learning about other functional areas of the CU have been given the opportunity to work with other departments.
According to Sarah Bohan, Vice President of Corporate Relations, the program typically runs for 10 weeks during the summer, but can continue throughout the year. “Students will begin their program with a 2-week intensive training which teaches them about our mission, values, products and services, and compliance. After this period, they will advance to their specific departments where they’ll be assigned projects to give them exposure and experience within their field of study and allow them to further develop their knowledge and skills.”
Likewise, the purpose of Navy Federal Credit Union’s (Merrifield, VA) Intern Program is to give young adults the professional skills they need in their future endeavors, whether it will be in their occupation or college career. “Virtually all of our departments employ interns,” said Michele Townes, Sr. Public Relations Specialist. “We have three types of internships -- seasonal, year-round (for students who can work while in school locally), and a graduate program with most of the candidates going on to fill roles here, sometimes at a management level.”
As they help young people and the communities that CUs serve, CU internships mesh well with the credit union philosophy.
AAFCU’s five core values – Integrity, Innovation, Quality, Service, and Outreach – are reflected in their internship program. “It’s an innovative way to provide young men and women the opportunity to gain practical work experience and to grow and develop in a professional setting,” explained Schubert.
The program is also a unique outreach opportunity that adds value to AAFCU’s relationships with its member school districts. “Kids are 20% of the population, but 100% of our future, and this is just one way AAFCU is making an investment in that future,” added Schubert.
Throughout MSUFCU’s internship, students work closely with CU management, receiving guidance, support, and feedback to help them continue their professional development. “We appreciate working with interns as they often bring a fresh perspective and curiosity for learning how things are done within the organization and provide creative solutions to their projects,” said Bohan. “If students are successful in their internships and are interested in continuing with us, we certainly welcome these opportunities to help them continue to grow and develop.” In fact, they’ve had multiple individuals who began as interns and are now pursuing their careers within MSUFCU.
The goal of MSUFCU’s internship program is to provide students in their community with the chance to gain the professional experience needed to excel within their field of study and beyond. “Our mission is to provide superior service while assisting members and employees to achieve financial security, their goals, and ultimately, their dreams -- our internship program is one way that we can help aspiring students in our area to be successful and achieve their goals and dreams,” added Bohan.
All Navy Federal interns are fully ingrained in the CU’s Code of Ethics and work environment. “It's really a great way to get real world experience,” said Townes.
Are you a young person or parent who wants to learn more about possible internship opportunities at your CU? Contact their HR Department directly and find out how to apply. Not a member? Find a credit union, join today, and inquire within.By Cyndi Cohen