Internship Helps Bring New African Americans To CU Movement

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SHREVEPORT, La. — For 2011, the African-American Credit Union Coalition expects it will place as many as 30 minority students in internship positions at credit unions, with the goal of developing more minority leaders within the credit union movement.

The AACUC was established in 1999 to increase minority participation in the credit union community, and more than 250 college students have gone through the internship program since that time, according to AACUC Chair Bert Hash, Jr. About a dozen CUs nationwide offered paid positions to interns during the summer of 2010, and the coalition usually recruits about 20 interns each year, although some years that figure has risen as high as 40 students, said Hash.

"We've been very fortunate that a number of credit unions have been stable with their participation," said Hash. Because of the financial crisis and the tighter bottom lines, some CUs "may not take as many as they did in the past, but they still participate in the program. So instead of taking five, they might take three."

As CEO of Municipal Employees CU in Baltimore, Hash said his CU has brought about five interns on as staffers over the years. "You get a chance to engage them and educate them about your culture, and a chance to encourage them to look at the credit union industry as a career," he said.

Hash said that the program's efforts have begun to bear fruit, with about 10% to 15% of interns moving on to full-time positions with CUs and staying in the field.

"At MECU we say 'We'd prefer to educate you and have you leave than not educate you and have you stay,'" said Hash. With the internship program, "we hope to create an atmosphere and an environment that their continued career in the credit union industry would be to their best benefit."

The AACUC is constantly on the lookout for CUs to participate in the program, and works to expand the program "by keeping this in front of credit unions and offering this as an opportunity for them not only to help in reaching out to their membership, but to reach the younger folks as a possible management candidate for the long term."

Hash said that while encouraging minority participation in the CU community is important, bringing younger faces into the fold is equally important. "As you look at the age of credit union membership, you also need to attract younger members to help you continue that industry," said Hash.

Hash said interns not only get the opportunity to learn about credit unions, they also get exposure to senior management and boards of directors, "so that they understand the way that we're structured and how we're different" from banks.

"They get the exposure and the background so that they can see first-hand the application of what they're learning in school," said Hash. "But while you're doing that, you're learning about credit unions and what makes them different-how you handle members, what are the benefits to being a member of a credit union-so that they get the overall education, but they also get exposure from a management level."

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