Published on July 21, 2022 by Sam Wilmes. 

As community banks continue to grapple with a worker shortage, a micro-internship program is matching banks with college students and recent graduates to fill both short- and long-term needs.

The BankTalentHQ micro-internship program, a collaborative effort between the career hub and business-to-business platform ParkerDewey, allows micro-interns to take on projects that would otherwise be handled by overloaded full-time employees. Those projects, which usually take 10-40 hours, can include creating content, data cleansing, generating leads, and other work. Micro-interns are provided real-time feedback on communication, timeliness, and attention to details.

Micro-interns are either employed or contracted by ParkerDewey; they do not have an employment relationship with the bank. Micro-interns, who all sign non-disclosure agreements, are not subject to all of the policies of in-house bank employees, interns and direct contractors. Micro-interns do not have access to internal systems, Social Security numbers, or other personally identifiable information. There is no additional cost or fee through the micro-internship program for subsequent hires, noted ParkerDewey Founder and CEO Jeffrey Moss.

Moss said the program has helped erase previous misconceptions that college graduates couldn’t work in technology without going to Silicon Valley, or that a lack of academic success disqualified them from working in banking. To combat those misguided beliefs, micro-interns are not filtered out based on their GPAs, colleges, or majors. College students instead create their own portfolios and select their best traits, from attention to detail, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and other character strengths — all characteristics that employers value en masse.

Moss said the program is also effective as 93 percent of college students say the best way to recruit them is through short-term paid, professional internships, which he said exceed the expectations of the professionals posting to fill those roles in a vast majority of cases. Micro-internships are also helping banks meet their DEI goals, he said: In one instance, the program provided 20 micro-internships to first-generation college students. That led to 15 full-time hires.

The program, which has seen steady growth since it began, grew especially rapidly during the pandemic as many banks adopted a more digital presence. “That confluence of events really created this opportunity not to replace full-time employees with ‘giggers,’ not to replace summer internships with freelancers, but rather where organizations can use project-based work as a way to identify, engage, assess and ultimately hire individuals who could be full-time employees,” Moss said.

BankTalentHQ, developed through the Illinois Bankers Association’s Illinois Bankers Business Services, Inc., includes a national job board and content highlighting banking as a career option. The platform now includes content from the American Bankers Association and approximately three dozen other state banking associations. More than 700 banks are registered on the site, noted Brian Hoffman, president of Illinois Bankers Business Services.

“The small banks don’t have the resources to go out and recruit at the colleges, have the booths or be on campus,” Hoffman added. “This is a great way that they can kind of do that and still get things done at the bank at the same time.”

Beyond micro-internships and online job postings, bank consultants say there are a number of other ways that banks can attract recent college graduates. Harlow Whiting, partner at the bank recruiting firm York & Associates, Granville, Ohio, said the best tool community banks have is connecting with universities, either through utilizing career centers that larger banks are already using, attending local career fairs, or advertising in collegiate newspapers. He said banks should stress the fact that employees have a better chance of advancement at a smaller bank than a larger institution, and offer credit training.

Stuart Kazor at Omaha, Neb.-based financial recruiting firm Adams Inc., said recent college graduates desire a hybrid work-from-home/office approach. Smaller community banks have gone with casual Fridays, catering lunches once per week, and selling other benefits, such as 401(k)s, opportunities for career advancements and raises.