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TINKER AFB, Okla. – For those credit union marketing departments that are short staffed, overworked and on a limited budget Tinker Federal Credit Union says don’t underestimate the value of interns. In 1998, faced with developing all aspects of the $1.1 billion credit union’s promotional campaigns, advertising, and business development while department budget purse strings were pulled tightly shut, the marketing team came up with the idea to offer paid internships to alleviate the workload. “Initially just the idea of it was the greatest challenge because it seemed kind of strange to hire someone for a position with a definite end,” said TFCU Marketing Manager Nancy Entz. “But our human resources people were so open minded about trying something different that really they helped this program get off the ground running.” Intern candidates are recruited from three of TFCU’s SEG universities with four-year programs in such fields as marketing, public relations, advertising and journalism, that are within a 30-minute driving distance to the credit union’s headquarters. The interns are given a combination of task-oriented projects and administrative support with specific projects related to their chosen area of expertise. Entz says that the credit union makes sure that every intern leaves with good portfolio material that will help in landing a job once they’ve graduated. In fact, since implementing this program, of the six interns, three are now working in credit unions in the Oklahoma City-area and one is in a related field. “It is pretty flattering to have so many of our interns placed in full-time jobs with area credit unions,” said Entz. “Not only does it show that they are walking away from their experience her with something that increases their `hireablilty’ but also it is a great way to spread the word about credit union careers, which generally doesn’t get much attention from university placement offices. Before this program, most college students here have never even considered a career in credit unions.” To better prepare the interns for the working world, TFCU focuses on the strategic and business side of marketing. “Our Senior Vice President of Marketing Matt Straton is an exceptional teacher and explains the whys behind any programs or promotions,” said Entz. “A lot of the candidates when they first get here think marketing and public relations is all about fancy events and glitzy advertising pieces. Some might have a vague notion of setting a goal for a promotional campaign but for the most part they aren’t able to tie it to the bottom line-cost versus benefit. By the time they leave here, we’ve managed to give them a good overview of our planning strategy and how to gauge the success of any campaign.” Once the marketing basics are learned the interns can customize their hands-on program to a particular skill set or interests. Students are hired for the semester and work 20-29 hours a week during regular business hours. Entz says that interns are always extremely beneficial when opening a new facility and they handle everything from planning, merchandising, compliance and promotion to developing SEG contacts and coordinating the grand opening events. While getting attached to the students is one of the hazards of hiring interns, Entz believes the benefits far outweigh any downside to the program. Not only does the marketing department benefit with much needed help but also it has created a much better networking environment between credit unions here and the community at large. “It has helped build more dynamic relationships and dialogues because now we share ideas, know who to contact and there is a growing buzz about the program,” said Entz. “As for the students, as long as they come in willing to be open minded and ready to learn, we make sure they get the experience of what it is like in the real world,” According to Entz, the first step to launching a similar program is to “work with the human resource department because they are the experts in creating these temporary positions.” Next clearly spell out the job description and expectations on paper, then make flexibility with regard to scheduling a priority and finally the program itself must have variety. “Don’t create an internship that is exclusively designed around dull task work and secretarial duties because word will spread around campus and you won’t get the top achievers,” said Entz. “You have to cater it to the skills they are looking to develop. Of course there is a certain amount of day-to-day busy work for all of us but the internship should offer a mix and include specific marketing activities.” [email protected]

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