Partnership With MBA Program Creates CU Career Path

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William Kennedy, 47, is many years away from retirement himself. But the CEO of Central Florida Postal Credit Union has already started training candidates to fill his shoes and those of his much older industry peers.

His $33-million credit union has partnered with the University of Central Florida's MBA program to expose more people to credit unions as a viable career path and provide those interested with internships to help them get started.

"I think credit unions do a great job of marketing their services," Kennedy said. "But I'm not so sure they do such a great job of career pathing."

Kennedy, who was introduced to the industry 20 years ago via a similar MBA project, said he wants to see other qualified students afforded the same opportunities and, at the same time, protect an industry whose leaders are-to put it bluntly-getting old.

"Within the next three to five years, one-third of the nation's CEOs are going to be retiring," he said. "And another third of their senior managers are going with them."

Kennedy, who recalled many of his bosses were old enough to be his "grandparents" when he entered the field 20 years ago, said the industry needs some young passion to keep the industry thriving.

"Can you think of any industries that can get you to the CEO spot in five years?" he said.

When Kennedy started his search for two interns last September using UCF's database, his main goal was to find students who showed "a genuine heart to become entrepreneurs." He said he was surprised to find four and, despite a tight budget, accepted them all into the nine-month program.

"I have one working in human resources, another in financial accounting and two in marketing," he said. "They sit in management meetings....board meetings and strategic planning retreats."

He said the idea is to show the interns the "nuts and bolts" of the operation and help them understand that being in charge means being multi-faceted. In addition to getting credit as part of their one-year accelerated MBA program, the students get paid for their work.

And, while they are only required to intern from September to May, Kennedy said, they have the option of staying until they officially graduate two months later.

He said he already has plans to offer one of the interns full-time work at the end of his internship.

In addition, the CU employs a high school intern who is learning about the industry from the ground up. Paid a salary "a little better than minimum wage," Kennedy said, the CU will also give the intern $2,000 toward his college education

"I guess I have part teacher in me," he said. "I really like to see my employees succeed."

Kennedy said he is proud that several of his former employees have moved on to become executives and senior managers of other credit unions.

Kennedy said he would highly recommend other credit unions open their doors to their local university students.

For CFPCU, the relationship being fostered goes beyond helping students set their career paths. Kennedy said UCF has added the industry to its list of possible career choices for students and given the CU access to its student database for hiring purposes.

"We are looking at hiring two graduates (found in the database)," he said. "I'm not so sure we would have found them if we just did this out of the blue with a want ad."

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