Nusenda offers financial literacy and career exploration courses for school credit.
The career exploration course has led to 90 internships and 23 permanent hires.
The credit union provides the curriculum and teachers and partners with local schools on the venue and credit.
CU QUICK FACTS
Nusenda Credit Union
HQ: Albuquerque, NM
Data as of 03.31.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 9.7%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 6.6%
Aaron Wadley-Child is a business loans operation specialist at Nusenda Credit Union ($2.4B, Albuquerque, NM) whose career at the cooperative began with a high school class for college credit.
Wadley-Child, in fact, is one of 23 interns who have become permanent employees after completing a free career exploration course the credit union offers for college credit at local secondary schools and a community college.
The career exploration class is one prong of a two-pronged approach that New Mexico’s largest credit union (by members) takes toward financial education in a state where the need is keen. The other is a for-credit personal finance course for high schoolers.
Wadley-Child came to Nusenda as an intern after taking the career exploration course at a local magnet school in Albuquerque. “I enrolled in Nusenda’s course at the end of my sophomore year, and discovered my affinity for the financial industry,” he says. Wadley-Child interned in the commercial lending area and “learned many important, valuable skills that will go with me as I continue the journey I’ve just begun through the working world.”
The internships are part of a mutually beneficial program that helps students see potential professions for themselves while helping us develop and bring new people into our industry.
Nusenda currently has 17 interns who came through the career exploration course. More than 215 have completed the course since its inception in 2014 and 90 of them went on to internships.
The credit union, meanwhile, has been offering internships since the late 1990s. About 35 have been hired as permanent staff, including the 23 from the career exploration course, says chief retail and performance officer Michelle Dearholt.
“The internships are part of a mutually beneficial program that helps students see potential professions for themselves while helping us develop and bring new people into our industry,” Dearholt says.
The paid internships typically last a semester and take place almost anywhere across the enterprise, including accounting, business services, electronic services and information technology, project and process management, and training and employee development.
Michelle Dearholt, Chief Retail and Performance Officer, Nusenda Credit Union
True to its roots as a teacher’s credit union, Nusenda grades the interns as part of the process for earning school credits. The cooperative was founded as Albuquerque Public Schools FCU in 1936, became New Mexico Educators FCU in 1982, and then Nusenda in 2015, and now serves more than 500 SEGs across the Land of Enchantment.
The career exploration course and internships are part of the credit union’s broad and deep commitment to community workforce and business development, and of its collaborative approach to addressing systemic issues.
The high school internships began as a partnership with a local magnet school called the Career Enrichment Center, which offered a course on banking fundamentals itself in collaboration with Central New Mexico Community College. Then in 2014, the city approached the credit union with an offer to work together in a public-private partnership to help address the high dropout rate in Albuquerque’s public schools.
“We were able to leverage national funding to take our existing programs and bring them to scale into what is now the Financial Services Career Exploration Course for sophomores, juniors, and seniors in our metro area,” says Robin Brulé, Nusenda’s chief community engagement officer.
Nusenda also hired its own educators. That relieved one burden from a local school system already stretched for people and resources.
Jonathan Schaumburg, Financial Capability Specialist, Nusenda Credit Union
Jonathan Schaumburg has been teaching the classes for four years, and came to Nusenda with 11 years of teaching already under his belt. While he now carries the title of financial capability specialist, Schaumburg says the job remains the same.
“When it comes to teaching for the credit union versus teaching for the Albuquerque Public Schools, there’s no difference in regard to our high expectations,” he says. “I still aim to create lessons and experiences that are relevant to our students’ lives while ensuring the content is aligned to New Mexico state standards and Common Core.”
Schaumburg says he and the students both benefit. “I truly enjoy seeing the immediate impact the class and internships have on my students’ lives. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to really create positive change, and we’re able to provide these young students a valuable professional experience that will help shape their future.”
Read more on the financial services career exploration syllabus in our Policy Exchange today. Don’t have access? Learn more here.
Partnerships are at the heart of the effort. “Our program is innovative because we approached it from a view of collaboration,” Brulé says. “It’s multi-layered and addresses multiple needs in our community ― education, workforce development, building tangible soft skills.”
Dearholt says the interns are treated and trained like permanent Nusenda employees, including a two-week onboarding. They meet with credit union executives, and along with the nitty gritty of their work areas, they learn “soft skills” such as communication techniques, on-the-job etiquette, listening and negotiation, problem-solving, teamwork, and self-motivation.
“We want them to bring their ideas to the table, too, to make Nusenda a better place for employees and our members,” Dearholt says.
Benefits All Around
Robin Brulé, Chief Community Engagement Officer, Nusenda Credit Union
“This program benefits members because we’re able to provide them with well-trained, enthusiastic employees who truly understand and embrace the credit union philosophy,” Dearholt says. “It also helps on a more holistic level in the communities where they live by providing employment opportunities and positive workplace development.”
That goes for interns who don’t stick around, too. “We hear from former interns who say they’ve developed a personal desire to learn and work in a professional setting ahead of their peers at school,” says Brulé, the chief community engagement officer.
The career exploration program has earned some national recognition, including a Top 25 Innovations in American Government Award from Harvard’s Ash Center in 2015 and a Strada Education Pathways with a Purpose Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2017.
There’s also the sense of accomplishment that comes with addressing its own version of the triple bottom line in a credit union movement way.
“As a credit union one of our seven principles is concern for community,” says Brulé. “Being able to teach students the importance of managing finances while giving them the opportunity to gain dual credit, on-the-job training, and competitive hourly pay is a win for families, a win for young people, and a win for our community ― economically and in improving quality of life.”