MADISON, Wis. — Ten Guatemalan credit union professionals arrived in the United States 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' new International Credit Union Leadership Program. 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 have been 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 U.S. young professionals will be chosen to intern in Guatemalan credit unions as a way to further broaden international relations and establish higher levels of credit union professionalism worldwide, according to Brian Branch, World Council president and CEO.
"The goal of the Professional Fellows Program is to increase networking among young professionals and foster higher performance levels," said Branch. "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 new skills in credit union management, including greater marketing awareness, training in financial disciplines and techniques for new product and service delivery methodologies, while also improving their English. Although the program is not part of the World Council International Partnerships Program, the California and Nevada Leagues see 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, president of the two U.S. leagues.
"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. "We also thank the six credit unions who have so graciously agreed to host Guatemalan credit union professionals throughout the month of April."
Interns in Iowa will gain expertise in many of the same areas, as well as seeking potential solutions to operational challenges they're facing at their credit unions back home. In addition, the exchange program allows host credit unions to gain a greater perspective on Hispanic culture and business practices that may have practical applications in help the credit unions better serve their own Hispanic populations, according to Patrick S. Jury, president and CEO of the Iowa League.
"We are thrilled to be able to offer this fellowship to the four successful candidates selected for the 2012 program," said Jury. "Our credit unions will provide a unique perspective and training environment for our guests looking to take home new experiences."
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, 2012. 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, World Council's International Leadership program will pair interns from the Dominican Republic with credit unions in Wisconsin and North Carolina. The Wisconsin 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 International Partnerships Program. In January 2013, the next group of U.S. program participants will be selected to intern with credit unions in the Dominican Republic.
World Council'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 credit unions in Guatemala, begins in June. The deadline for applications is April 20, 2012.
For those interested, more information and a program application form can found at www.woccu.org/leadershipprogram. For more information on the Department of State Professional Fellows program, visit http://exchanges.state.gov/citizens/profs/professional-fellows.
El Consejo Mundial de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito es la asociación gremial y agencia de desarrollo para el sistema internacional de cooperativas de ahorro y crédito. El Consejo Mundial promueve el crecimiento sustentable de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito y otras cooperativas financieras en todo el mundo a fin de facultar a las personas para que mejoren su calidad de vida a través del acceso a servicios financieros asequibles y de alta calidad. El Consejo Mundial realiza esfuerzos de defensa activa en representación del sistema global de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito ante organizaciones internacionales y trabaja con gobiernos nacionales para mejorar la legislación y la regulación. Sus programas de asistencia técnica introducen nuevas herramientas y tecnologías para fortalecer el desempeño financiero de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito y profundizar su alcance comunitario.
El Consejo Mundial ha implementado 290 programas de asistencia técnica en 71 países. A nivel mundial, 56,000 cooperativas de ahorro y crédito en 101 países atienden a 200 millones de personas. Obtenga más información sobre el impacto global del Consejo Mundial en www.woccu.org.