The goal of a college student is to graduate from college and get a well paying job. It makes sense to think that way since the average student takes five years to graduate these days. According to an article found in Forbes magazine in May 2013, only sixteen percent of graduating seniors say they have a job waiting for them. The Great Recession has contributed to many graduates not being able to get employment. However internships have become more attractive during this time. In 2011 and 2012, seventy-two percent of college graduates had an internship while in school and out of the seventy-two percent only forty-two percent of those internships lead to jobs. The reason for mentioning this fact is that internships are a great way to gain experience for the future.
Since there are fewer jobs to go around these days, students can benefit from working an internship. Internships are a practical way of taking what one has learned in class and applying it to the work force. They provide an introduction to potential future work environments and helps one decide whether the environment meets career wishes and interests. I work with the African American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) Reaching Toward the Future Internship Program. The AACUC Internship Program has been around for 14 years making an impact and a difference in the lives of young men and women providing nurturing and an opportunity to expose them to the great potential for a career in the Credit Union industry. During the past 14 years, we have had a total of 361 students interning in credit unions and vendor partners across the country. We have increased the awareness of a credit union internship by having 49 participating credit unions, leagues and vendors. We have participation from 43 colleges and universities. We have had ten percent of that number become credit union professionals and began careers in our industry.
Students who enter this program gain valuable experience in their discipline that will impact their career path. They are exposed to various CEOs, Vice Presidents, and other Credit Union professionals during their internship. This exposure helps strengthens their ability to network in a professional setting. The AACUC Internship program continues to provide numerous students pursuing a career in financial services the opportunity to work hands on with industry leaders. This program helps create lasting relationships with supervisors, co-workers, and CEO’s, benefiting the interns professionally and personally. We all know the importance of networking. It can open so many doors of opportunity. Interns are also mentored. We spend time discussing the importance of dressing for success, knowing your company’s culture, managing your finances and why a good work ethic is necessary. These key topics are valuable to students who have never or have very little experience in a corporate atmosphere. Students need direction on what they need to do to accomplish their dreams.
Working with the AACUC Internship Program for the last six years has been such a rewarding experience for me. The students I have worked with in this program finish a different person from the one who walked in the very first day. They are more focused and committed to broadening their career through the skills they acquire. As a Credit Union professional, I enjoy seeing the students learn about the operations and purpose of Credit Unions. You can see the students become inspired because they too want to make a difference. In the words of the philosopher Heraclitus, good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character. This is why the AACUC internship is so important it builds students’ character up to become successful.