In high school, things start to get serious for students and they begin to start thinking about their futures. Some students know exactly what they plan to do after graduation: go to college or trade school, join the military, start a business, or get a job. Yet a number have no idea what they are going to do.
CUB responds to teacher’s request
Six years ago, Joyce Cassin, a teacher at Big Picture Learning Academy, set out to help students make informed decisions about their futures. New to the Shelbyville area, she attended a local business showcase. “I’d switched from teaching math to guiding students in a careers class,” Cassin said. “So, I went around to each business and asked them if they would be willing to speak to my students about careers in their respective industries.”
That’s how Cassin met Jeanne Willard, Vice President, Retail Training & Support Administrator at Citizens Union Bank (CUB). Willard agreed to set up a time for the Big Picture Learning Academy students to visit the bank and have some CUB employees explain what they do. On occasion a CUB employee has visited Cassin’s classroom to talk about finances and budgeting.
Milestone Academies are new addition to Shelby County Public Schools
Big Picture Learning Academy is part of Milestone Academies located on the Shelby Campus of Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC). The newest addition to Shelby County Public Schools, Milestone also includes Inspire Newcomer Academy, Cultivate Virtual Learning Academy and Ascension Alternative Academy.
While each program is different, Cassin teaches the careers class for each of the academies. Once during each semester, she takes many of her classes to CUB’s conference room to hear CUB employees talk about what they do on a daily basis and offer career advice for a career in banking.
The program includes four or five speakers. “I give each speaker about 5 to 8 minutes,” Willard says. Topics include student loan debt, contributions to a 401K, investing, and the importance of confidentiality.
“I explain the importance of finding a career choice that makes them happy and can provide for a family,” says Ben Wathen, Senior VP – Head of Retail Banking at CUB. “They shouldn’t rush off to college without a plan, especially if they are taking out student loans. We see people all the time that are saddled with student debt because someone told them it was a good idea to go to college, but they had no idea what their plan was.”
Ben also advises the students about the working world, like how important it is to contribute to their 401K if the employer is providing a match.
“The investment advisors bring in brochures that show the students how their money grows,” Willard says. “When we talk about the 401K and matching funds, we can show them this is historically what you can have when you get older and how important it is to start saving when you are young.”
Some of Cassin’s students are in at-risk categories, and may not have been exposed to financial management. “Here they receive info on checking and savings accounts,” Cassin explains. “CUB talks about soft skills – honesty, timeliness, and responsibility. They stress the importance of knowing basic math – not being a math whiz – and being able to read and speak well.”
Students demonstrate what they learn
Before each field trip, Cassin provides a list of questions that each student must answer and place in their student binder when they return:
- What are the services offered by Citizens Union Bank?
- What are the different jobs within the bank?
- What educational background do I need to be employed there?
- List the job skills that CUB expects from an employee.
- Compare the future of physical banks to online banks.
- What is the approximate beginning salary of a Teller?
- Are there other positions such as maintenance and housekeeping that are employed by the bank?
- Name two qualities that are most desired to work at CUB.
In addition to the above questions, they must answer a series of questions for each speaker: name and title; duties and hours worked; benefits such as vacation, sick days, medical; required education, on-the-job training and opportunities for advancement, and advice for working in the banking field.
“We go back in the classroom and discuss what they’ve learned,” Cassin says. “Each student is also required to write a thank you note.” At the end of the semester, each student does a presentation to show their mentors, families, and community members what they have learned.
Students learn valuable skills that will help them in the future, but they also might discover an interest in a career in banking.