Keesler Federal Credit Union: How Self-Improvements Advance Careers

Nacol Olson-Palmer always believed in the value of continuous learning and self-improvement to help her advance in her career. Nacol joined the team at Kessler Federal Credit Union (KFCU) over 14 years ago as a teller and eventually worked her way to a head teller, financial service representative, and loan officer. For the past five years, she has served as a branch manager. Nacol’s commitment to continual improvement is what motivated her to join the first cohort of KFCU’s Branch Manager Apprenticeship Program when the program launched in the summer of 2018.

KFCU worked closely with the workforce training and education team at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, a Mississippi Apprenticeship Program partner, to design the two-year program that provides 4,000 hours of on the job training. Apprentices receive an additional 325 hours of online related technical training, which makes the program accessible to KFCU employees in multiple states. The online program also makes it possible for apprentices to complete the courses after hours.

The first cohort included 18 apprentices—nine employees and nine branch managers. These managers decided to participate in the training so they could better support and serve as mentors for their colleagues who had goals of achieving a branch manager position. Additionally, these managers wanted to refresh their knowledge and grow in their careers.

The first cohort graduated from the program in December of 2018. After completing the program, Nacol has put what she learned to use not only for herself but also for her team. “I believe the apprenticeship program has helped me a great deal. I have used the skills I have learned to communicate better verbally and in writing. I have helped my team with their goals by assisting them with cover letter and resume writing. They appreciate the time and commitment I gave to their career.

The Branch Manager Apprenticeship Program also inspired Nacol to take a different approach to career growth. “The program has helped me get my foot back in the door to advancing my education. To this point, I have advanced my career with hard work, cross-training, and non-traditional forms of education. It has given me the push I need to go back to college.”

The success of the first cohort demonstrated the need for and value of the program. In 2019, the credit union launched its second cohort with 10 participants, and KFCU plans to continue using the apprenticeship model to strengthen their talent pipeline and develop managers within their current workforce. This proven workforce development tool, as evident in KFCU’s program, benefits both the employer and the employees. According to Nacol, “This program has given me a sense of accomplishment, and I feel valued by Keesler Federal Credit Union. They took the time to develop a program that would help me as well as others. I am excited to see what the future holds for me.”

If you are interested in designing and implementing an apprenticeship program for your company, you can email apprenticeinfo@mdes.ms.gov for more information.