Dade County Federal Credit Union in Sweetwater, Fla., used the coronavirus pandemic to get creative with its internship program.
After sitting out the 2020 internship cycle, the $1.1 billion asset credit union created a virtual internship program to continue teaching local students credit union operations, business etiquette, and financial literacy.
The program started with Jessica Vasquez, Dade County Federal’s Gen-You community liaison, working with the training department to develop an in-depth set of modules. Four interns, who were entering their senior year of high school, worked with the credit union five days per week.
Three interns worked virtually while the fourth requested to work in the office.
Each day started with a meeting that also served as the interns’ opportunity to “clock in.” Interns received the daily assignments through an online project management platform. The interns also conducted market research for the credit union.
“Once a week, we coordinated with departments heads and said, ‘Hey, accounting, compliance, lending, give me 30 minutes of your time. Let’s expose these students to a day in your world,’” says Paola Chigne, vice president of marketing and youth development. “The goal of the program is to provide them with an experience that’s once in a lifetime in their professional development. We don’t just give them junk work.”
Dade County Federal, which has had an internship program for more than 10 years, also benefits from the arrangement. Three current full-time employees got their foot in the door through the internship program.
The credit union also won a statewide award for its financial education efforts.
“A large component of our programming was financial literacy and that was the interns’ favorite part,” Vasquez says. “They’d tell us, ‘They don’t teach us this at school.’ That’s kind of why financial literacy is so important to us.”
Chigne and Vasquez expect to continue that financial education in a virtual and in-person format next summer.
“We like in-house (interns), but one benefit of going through this was working with training and coming up with these different modules and classes for the students to take,” Vasquez says. “They got to learn all about products, they got to learn how to cross-sell, and how to properly speak in public. We still want to incorporate what we did virtually with all the modules and kind of bring them in slowly.”