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<p>ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Eager to find youthful talent, New Mexico credit unions and banks are reaping personnel benefits from a special three-year-old program run by the Albuquerque Public School system aimed at encouraging high schoolers to pursue financial careers. So far, the “Money, Success and Power” program has brought in some 25 interns who after completing both on-site and classroom instruction, have taken back office and teller jobs at more than a dozen Albuquerque banks and CUs. A number have taken permanent jobs at the institutions. “It’s nice to see bankers and credit unions working together to develop this kind of educational program,” said Becky White, branch operations manager at the $500 million New Mexico Educators Credit Union, one of the participating CUs which hired two interns for full time teller jobs in January. White, who has served as a guest lecturer in the classrooms, said the program has enabled CUs and banks to show benefits of working in a financial institution and helped guide junior and senior high students toward financial careers. Students learn about financial terminology, customer service and working a teller window among other topics. The selection of eligible students is handled by the “Career Enrichment Center” of the Albuquerque Public Schools satellite system. The students spend the first semester in classroom instruction and the second semester on basic tellering, with the third as interns in one of the institutions. Giving broad support for the program are both the New Mexico Credit Union League and the New Mexico Bankers Association. Among the participating CUs are: First Financial CU; New Mexico Educators CU; U.S. New Mexico CU; New Mexico Central CU; and Sandia Lab FCU. “The program is doing very well for us since we end up hiring a student every year,” said Judy Welde, president and CEO of the $15 million New Mexico Central. Even the students who do not get hired “learn some very useful information about the banking industry,” which means both CUs and banks. Polly Azar, instructor and student advocate for the Schools’ Career Advancement Center, said some 40 high schoolers sign up each year for the program, a number which is whittled down to about 25-30. The students are bused each day to the Center, located in downtown Albuquerque. The Center is similar to a magnet school, and it holds advanced occupational classes in such areas as nursing and pre-med science. Students must have at least a C average to get into the program and must pass four courses: principles of banking, introduction to computers, budgeting and business English. Sylvia Lyon, vice president of the New Mexico League, said the partnership with the schools and the cooperation between banks and CUs has been indeed proved heartening “as the caliber of student improves.” Linda Carter, vice president of human resources at Sandia Lab Federal, said while the program is “a good one since it gives a chance to give high school students real financial experience,” there can be “maturity issues.” Her CU has found some students ready and some not so ready to take on full or part time job, and so the CU has had to be cautious in whom it hires from the group. For example, there was some concern about one prospective female student who “gave us bad answers” to some key questions and flunked “our personality profile.” Another male student was “a very likeable fellow who had a little trouble following procedures and didn’t catch up.” Under the program, student interns start out at a fixed $6.00 an hour scale as set by the Career Center which the CUs admit is considerably less than the standard start rate. As one CU executive put it, “it is a cheap source of labor.” Once hired on a permanent basis, each institution sets individual wages which can run in the $8-$9 range. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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