It is a Thursday morning and Spring Break won’t wrap up for another six days.
But Shae-Linn Davies does not like to slow down. The Grade 12 Claremont student sits in a small but tidy office of the Coast Capital Savings branch in Saanich’s Tillicum Centre, and reflects on her internship with the credit union.
“This is not your standard first-time job,” she said. “This is gaining work experience with a company that cares about youth.”
Each year, the credit union hires a small group of Grade 11 and Grade 12 for its Youth Get It Interns program — eight in the Greater Victoria area and 20 across the province — as part of its community commitment.
A model student, Davies joined the program in Grade 11 when she heard about it through her leadership class. Davies said she applied for the program because she wanted to expand financial literacy after receiving some exposure to the subject in Grade 8.
“I think financial literacy is so important, especially as youth enter post-secondary,” she said. This said, she did not anticipate how the internship would alert to the importance of community leadership. “Participating in different events that are targeting and helping youth has really been the most important for me in this program.”
Davies performs two task. First, she works as what the credit union calls a Member Service Representative — as a teller, to use the vernacular. Her second role consists out representing the credit union as an ambassador at various community functions.
Davies received two weeks of training when she first started the internship. “The first [part of] the training was more on the teller side, learning the system,” she said. “After that, there was training to deal with privacy and security, and that has been followed up with online training and in-branch training courses throughout my two years with Coast Capital.”
As an intern, Davies works full-time during the summer months. During the school year, she works one Saturday a week, with extra hours available, and attends one monthly meeting.
Davies, who plans to study computer science and pursue a career in data analysis, risk management and cyber-security, said the internship has exposed her to a wide range of individuals.
“It has really provided me with the confidence to speak with members,” she said. “It can be daunting to have somebody, who is older than me come up and I have to help with whatever they are dealing with. Sometimes that can be difficult because you are looking at an adult, saying ‘Ok, I’m going to help you with this problem now.’”
This comment raises an obvious question: how do customers, most of them adults, react to having a teenager handle their money issues?
“There is so much support around those intern, that the reaction is far and away positive,” said Tanya Smith, community relations and events manager at Coast Capital Savings. “And if somebody is at all uncomfortable, somebody will step in and take over those member’s needs.”
The competition for internship spots can be, well, competitive.
“But I don’t want scare people away from applying…and I would like to see people from all walks of life,” said Smith. “And we have people from all economic background on our team.”
While grades are important, other selection criteria come into play as well, said Smith. Applicants with lower grades will get an equal opportunity, if they have a record of volunteering in their communities, and demonstrate an openness to learn.
Coast Capital pays the interns in the words of Smith “well” and many put the money towards their post-secondary education. But the range of benefits stemming from the program exceed the financial dimension. Many use the experience to strengthen their university applications, or get a scholarship. “The benefits [for the interns] go on well past the time that they are in the program, so it is really a lift,” said Smith.
But perhaps the most beneficial part lies in the personal growth that the program spurs. “These interns come in, they are really scared, and they are not sure that they actually do this, stand up in front of a line and help people with financial questions,” said Smith.
Yet by the time they leave, they will have become much more confident as they pursue their goals. “I have seen many young people come into the program and then change the direction of their lives,” said Smith.