- AmeriCU assists soldiers with resumes and other job seeking skills.
- Four years ago, AmeriCU launched a 90-day internship program for military members re-entering civilian life. To date, two veterans have taken full-time positions with the credit union.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 200,000 service members transition from the military back to their civilian communities annually. To aid transitioning soldiers locally and recruit for its own open positions, AmeriCU ($2.6B, Rome, NY) created a 90-day internship program to give soldiers a sample of what a career in banking might look like.
Recruitment Challenges And Soldier Service
The genesis of AmeriCU’s internship program was simple. According to Alissa Sykes Tulloch, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Tina Thornton, assistant vice president of financial services, the credit union is growing and continuously seeking new talent but is faced with the same challenges many employers are with respect to recruitment.
AmeriCU has strong roots in the military and is dedicated to supporting the military community. The cooperative was a long-time participant in Onward to Opportunity, a program with Syracuse University that prepares soldiers to transition from the military to civilian world. This program aligns with the credit union’s mission to give back to the communities it serves and found the program to be a perfect opportunity to partner together.
“We were already helping transitioning soldiers with resumes and mock interviews,” Thornton says. “An internship program gave us an opportunity to not only give on-the-job career experience to soldiers leaving the military but also to recruit them into full-time positions and transition them into the local community.”
Now, AmeriCU works closely with the Army Career Alumni Program (ACAP) at Fort Drum to publicize the credit union’s 90-day internship program for transitioning soldiers. ACAP is a formal part of the transition process, providing briefings and tools to assist with civilian life during pre-separation training.
The credit union gives those soldiers who participate in the internship the background they need for a successful career transition.
“Although there is a higher success rate of converting college interns to continued employment at the end of the program, we are happy to give the military community the experience they need to be successful, regardless of where they land,” Tulloch says.
Start With The Basics, Then Customize
AmeriCU kicks off the internship with basic onboarding. After learning about the credit union’s background and leadership, each intern goes through a standardized teller services training. Next, they rotate through different departments.
“No matter which department they’ll be supporting, learning those basic teller skills is vital,” Thornton says.
There is also a fast track for soldiers who already have a strong financial background. When soldiers have an interest in a specific area, the credit union does its best to pair them with that department.
For example, AmeriCU’s most recent intern was interested in lending, so he spent time with several experienced lenders during his three-month program. The internship is paid, and the credit union compensates transitioning soldiers the same as any other entry-level employee.
“The purpose is to give them an overall look at what a financial institution is,” Thornton says. “Some of our interns don’t know the depth of what we do and think we just cash checks.”
AmeriCU addresses financial readiness for military members via basic budgeting guidance as well as more in-depth financial planning for soldiers heading down the wrong path. Read more in “Supporting The Military Is More Than A Job At AmeriCU.”
To date, two military interns transitioned into full-time employees. One stayed with AmeriCU for approximately one year before taking a finance job within the Department of Defense. The other moved back home after a year and took a position at another credit union.
Regardless of whether they stay with AmeriCU, the credit union views keeping a former soldier in the industry as a success.
“Being in the military takes physical fitness but also requires other traits like discipline, confidence, leadership skills, teamwork, and intellect,” Thornton says. “That makes it easy to bring soldiers into the financial world.”
Achieving Goals, Measuring Impact
Credit unions were built on the belief of people helping people and AmeriCU is committed to supporting the local community, the heart of the credit union mission. With the internship program, however, the cooperative believes both parties are benefiting whether the relationship is short or long-term.
CU QUICK FACTS
DATA AS OF 09.30.22
HQ: Rome, NY
NET WORTH: 8.6%
Although the internship program on its own does not generate a positive ROA from a purely financial perspective, it is an investment in the military community that AmeriCU serves. For example, the credit union is testing the viability of allowing military spouses to continue as employees after moving on to other posts. So far, a hybrid virtual assistant and a call center representative are successfully working for AmeriCU from their new Virginia and Tennessee homes.
Beginning in December, AmeriCU will deploy its first virtual branch, which contains a full set of branch staff positions including tellers, member service reps, and a branch manager. All roles are able to serve members from anywhere by virtual appointment.
“This is another opportunity for those who relocate, especially transitioning soldiers and military spouses, to continue working with us,” Tulloch says.
Looking Ahead And Advice For Others
As for the future of the program, Tulloch says it’s bright.
“We’re going to expand it,” the EP says. “We want to ensure all the strategic decisions we make fit into the military lifestyle. The new virtual branch is a great example of how we’re trying to find ways to deepen relationships as military members and employees deploy elsewhere.”
Thornton advises other credit unions to look for partners with missions to serve a niche membership within the wider community.
“Our partnerships with Syracuse University and others create a greater benefit for those we serve,” she says. “They help us get in front of soldiers when they need us.”