Tennessee’s colleges and community banks have enjoyed a long history of partnership and success. Tennessee bankers have supported higher education by serving on college and university boards, providing student scholarships, endowing professorships and academic chairs, and supporting courses and programs – often serving as guest lecturers, speakers, and adjunct faculty. For their part, our colleges and universities continue to provide a stream of graduates eager to make a difference in Tennessee banks and the communities they serve. College faculty and administrators also serve alongside bankers on community boards and civic organizations. And, many of these individuals lend their expertise to banking conferences and schools in Tennessee and across the nation.
As these mutually beneficial relationships have grown, so have the education and training needs of community banks. Today’s banking environment requires new college graduates to not only have strong business and technical skills, but they must also be able to communicate effectively with customers and work with fellow employees and bank managers to solve problems. They must also have a willingness and ability to take on a variety of tasks. All of this requires what academics refer to as “experiential learning.” That is, students engage in opportunities beyond the classroom during their college years and learn from experience. Internships and other experiential learning opportunities are a win-win-win for banks, colleges, and students.
The fact that real world experiences benefit college students and community banks has been supported by a recent survey conducted under the direction of the UT Martin Dunagan Chair of Excellence in Banking and distributed by the Tennessee Bankers Association.
The purpose of the survey was to determine how many banks currently employ college students and, for those who do not, how many would consider doing so in the future. The survey also sought to determine the types of student employment most preferred by banks and how important those experiences are when future applicants are considered for full-time positions.
The survey and follow-on discussions with community bankers from West, Middle, and East Tennessee are a collaborative effort among John C. Clark, Dungan Chair of Excellence in Banking, the University of Tennessee at Martin; Thomas H. Payne, Dean, College of Business, Tennessee Tech University; Larry R. White, Poteat Chair of Banking, East Tennessee State University; and members of the Tennessee Bankers Association staff. Forty-five banks provided complete survey responses. Eighty percent of the respondents expressed a strong desire to work with universities across the state to improve job opportunities for college students and graduates.
Important take-aways from the survey included:
- The most preferred student employment opportunities are hourly positions during selected seasons and throughout the year as bank work needs coincide with students’ schedule availabilities.
- Work experience during college makes a favorable difference when graduates are considered for permanent positions.
- The top reasons why institutions favor applicants with bank work experience when making permanent hiring decisions are that these graduates have a better overall knowledge of banking and have had an opportunity to determine whether they are truly interested in banking as a career.
- In general, bankers indicated that meaningful work experiences while in college are very important in preparing college graduates for successful careers.
- Colleges can help banks offer quality student work experiences by making them more aware of the specific students who are seeking part or full-time work. Respondents also indicated that college faculty and students would benefit from being more aware of the specific employment needs of individual banks.
- Overall, respondents were very interested in working with colleges and universities to improve or increase employment opportunities for students.
Colleges, universities, and banks across our state have an outstanding opportunity to build and grow effective partnerships that will benefit students, graduates, bankers, and the communities we all serve. Whether these relationships culminate in seasonal work, periodic fulltime (summer) employment, or year-round part-time employment, they provide for enhanced learning for students, better prepared permanent employees for banks, and a stronger workforce for Tennessee communities. As a community banking leader, you are encouraged to reach out to us or other representatives of our state’s higher education institutions to initiate or expand these opportunities. And, as educators representing the three grand divisions of our state, we promise to do the same as we work together to grow our organizations and our economy.
Courtney Carroll, UT Martin Finance major and December 2017 graduate, compiled the results from the survey.