During the 2013-2014 school year, American universities are expected to award more than 3.5 million associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. That’s a substantial potential work force. The problem is, even with a degree in hand, many new workers are not ready to snap a credit union name tag on their shirt. Others are unaware of the benefits and the value of a credit union career. Filene’s Credit Union Career Corps is hoping to change all this.
An innovation team sponsored by the Filene Research Institute and composed of Jason Werts of Unitus Community Credit Union, Jen Kulkoski Laud of First Financial Credit Union, Joline Epple of Target Credit Union, and Kayce Bell of Alabama Credit Union created the corps as part of the Filene i3 innovation program. A launch date has not been set because details are still being worked out; however, the team looked at how to attract top talent among recent graduates and found that, like anyone else, they respond to the right incentives. The bait is simple — give the grads what they need.
Meet The 2014 Graduates
According to research and surveys conducted by the innovation team, today’s graduates typically fit this profile:
They want a career that allows them to use their creativity.
They want to be involved in community service.
They are strapped with an average of $35,000 in student debt upon graduation.
That last one is a bit of a doozy. Here’s how Credit Union Career Corps suggests credit unions participating in the program can help: Offer newly hired, recent graduates annual bonuses that are applied directly to the principal balances of student loans. CUCC’s goal is to reduce the burden of student loan debt on recent graduates and provide a pool of educated talent for credit unions.
“Obviously, there is a wave of talent leaving the movement,” says Kayce Bell, a member of the innovation team at Filene and chief operations officer at Alabama Credit Union ($620M, Tuscaloosa, AL). “You hear the numbers, anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 executives leaving over the next five to seven years.”
This gray flight of would-be retirees is no secret and credit unions know they will need younger employees to fill this void. But how do you attract them? Year-end bonuses applied to the principal of student loan debt are a great start. It’s also important, however, to sell graduates on the credit union way. Concern for the community may be the last of the seven cooperative principles, but it is front-of-mind at many credit unions across the country. Graduates love community involvement. Credit unions should show them they do, too.
“They have been raised with community service being part of their academic curriculum,” Bell says. “They seem so surprised they can do that with a credit union. They expect to make these contributions, and they’re eager to partner with an employer who understands the importance of community.”
What Can You Do For Me Today?
When I was in college, the CEO of a mid-size Florida credit union offered some career advice. Employers, he told me, can be single-minded about what they look for in job candidates.
“I don’t care about what you’ve done or what you want to be when you grow up,” he said. “What I care about is: What can you do for me today?”
That’s a question credit unions should be asking. Recent graduates are not charity hires. They represent the credit union’s future.
Nevertheless, the right recent graduate can do a lot for credit unions today. Whether it’s fresh marketing ideas, consistency on the teller line, or adeptness in the loan office, recent graduates have a lot to offer. At Alabama Credit Union, interns and young hires impress Kacye Bell with their tech skills.
“We had an intern in our IT department who installed a program that helped us keep a counter on the age of every PC in our 26-branch network to know when it should be recycled,” she says. “This intern gave us that program. That was something we didn’t have time to even fool with. When a PC broke down, we replaced it. Now, we have a regular equipment retirement schedule, and we don’t have so many PCs breaking down.”
And What You Can’t Do, An Internship Can Help With
On the skills recent graduates need to work on, Bell offers the following list, just to name a few:
Appropriate email communications.
To help recent graduates adopt more professional habits as well as educate them about the organization, Alabama Credit Union has an eight-week, paid internship. The program is 40 hours a week and is in its third year.
“These are not envelope stuffer positions,” Bell says. “These are positions in IT, accounting, HR, marketing, the member care center, even collections.”
The interns’ time is divided among three areas: on-the-job training, an intern project, and classroom sessions taught by credit union employees and outside speakers. Interns meet with area leaders, including the mayor and coaches at the University of Alabama. They also learn about major issues affecting the community at the city, county, or state level.
“We put them in touch with as many people in leadership roles in the community as we can to help them find their feet, their focus, and where they can make a contribution,” Bell says.
The internship is not required by Credit Union Career Corps, but it is something Bell enthusiastically recommends.