MADISON, Wis. (4/11/12)--Ten Guatemalan credit union professionals arrived in the U.S. last week to begin the first phase of a month-long internship program with credit unions in California and Iowa. The interns, all under the age of 40, are the first cohort of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) new International Credit Union Leadership Program.
Victor Manuel Garcia Salazar (right), a Guatemalan intern with Des Moines (Iowa) Metro CU, shakes hands with Iowa Democratic state Rep. Bob Kressig during a visit to Iowa's capitol while Linda Gibbs, business development specialist for Greater Iowa CU in Ames, looks on.
The program, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of Citizen Exchanges, is part of the State Department's larger Professional Fellows Program.
With assistance from the California and Nevada Credit Unions Leagues, six interns were placed in credit unions in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas. The Iowa Credit Union League has helped place the remaining four interns at credit unions in Des Moines and Ames.
During the program's second cohort, 10 young professionals from the U.S. will intern in Guatemalan credit unions to further broaden international relations and establish higher levels of credit union professionalism worldwide, according to Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO.
"The goal of the Professional Fellows Program is to increase networking among young professionals and foster higher performance levels," Branch said. "For participants in the International Credit Union Leadership Program, this will translate into a stronger global credit union network and better member service delivered by credit unions in participating countries."
Interns traveling to California will focus on gaining skills in credit union management including greater marketing awareness, training in financial disciplines and techniques for new product and service delivery methodologies, while improving their English.
Guatemalan intern Roberto Monge (right), human resources director at the Guatemalan credit union trade association (right), learns new strategies from Fernando Arias of Patelco CU in Pleasanton, Calif. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Although the program is not part of the WOCCU International Partnerships Program, the California and Nevada leagues view the internships as a natural extension of their existing relationship with credit union trade association Cooperativas Federeadas de Ahorro y Crédito de Guatemala, their Guatemala partner organization, according to Diana Dykstra, the leagues' president.
"This is another great example of our partnership with Guatemala--to share expertise and experiences, and improve the credit union movements in both countries," Dykstra said.
Interns in Iowa will gain expertise in many of the same areas, and will seek potential solutions to operational challenges they're facing at their credit unions back home. Also, the exchange program allows host credit unions to gain a greater perspective on Hispanic culture and business practices that may have practical applications in helping the credit unions better serve their own Hispanic populations, according to Patrick S. Jury, president/CEO of the Iowa league.
"Our credit unions will provide a unique perspective and training environment for our guests looking to take home new experiences," Jury said.
At the conclusion of their fellowships, all participants will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will take part in the Professional Fellows Congress, May 3-5. The congress marks the culmination of the U.S. exchange experience, providing a forum for participants to discuss best practices, meet other young leaders within their profession, and develop concrete projects and networks they can implement upon their return home.
In October, WOCCU's International Credit Union Leadership Program will pair interns from the Dominican Republic with credit unions in Wisconsin and North Carolina. The Wisconsin Credit Union League also is paired with the Asociacion de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Creditor Inc., the Dominican Republic's credit union trade association, as part of the program. In January 2013, the next group of U.S. program participants will intern with credit unions in the Dominican Republic.
WOCCU's International Credit Union Leadership Program, which promotes internships for young credit union people from various countries, is designed to facilitate idea exchanges, promote foreign language skill development, enhance cultural diversity and improve problem-solving skills as they relate to credit union development and management on a global basis.
The program's second cohort, which will involve choosing 10 Spanish-speaking U.S. applicants to intern in Guatemala credit unions, begins in June. The deadline for applications is April 20.
For more information, use the links.