Back to school: Financial services apprenticeship program creates unique talent pipeline
Partnership between Nationwide, Columbus City Schools and Columbus State designed to attract and develop Columbus City high school grads who may never have considered financial services
Columbus, OH – Leaders charged with recruiting the next generation of talent to the financial services industry face two distinct challenges in today’s competitive job market: attracting young people who may have never considered a career in financial services and driving more diversity in their workforce to help address the growing needs of customers in underserved communities.
Nationwide is taking a new approach to this challenge by turning to an old solution - Apprenticeships. The company’s Financial Services Professional Apprenticeship program launched in partnership with Columbus State Community College is helping Columbus City Schools high school students begin a financial services career path, inspired by apprenticeship models traditionally seen in construction trades.
“We asked ourselves two questions,” said Eric Henderson, leader of Nationwide’s annuity business. “At a time when job seekers have plenty of options, how can we make a financial services career feel attractive for young people who may have never considered it – or maybe never even considered going to college? And with diverse communities still underserved by our industry, how can we ensure our workforce of the future reflects the customer base we’re striving to serve?”
The new five semester “earn and learn” program is welcoming a new cohort of seven apprentices to Columbus State and Nationwide this fall. Many of the apprentices are graduates of Northland and Linden-McKinley High Schools in Columbus and will work on Nationwide’s Annuity or Retirement Solutions operations teams part time, while pursuing an AS Degree in Business at Columbus State.
“We at Columbus State are big fans of the workplace-integrated apprenticeship education model and are excited to extend it to our Business programs,” said Carmen Daniels, Columbus State’s dean of business, engineering and technology. “When students are learning continuously in the classroom and on the job to achieve their long-term career goals, it accelerates their trajectory of success in their chosen field.”
Nationwide will cover most of the apprentice’s tuition, fees, books and even provide a computer for schoolwork, while paying $18 an hour and full benefits for 20-24 hours of work in a schedule designed to flex based on the students’ academic needs. The company will also provide personal and corporate life readiness training and support. Students will be assigned academic and Nationwide mentors to help them along the way in a journey designed to set them up for a full-time position at Nationwide at the completion of their apprenticeship.
“What is unique about this program is that it truly speaks to how K-12 education, higher ed and corporate America can work together to create new opportunities for our students,” said Jason Johnson, Principal of Northland High School.
“As I talk with my peers across our industry, they share the same recruiting challenges, and many are looking for new ways to bring diverse talent into their organizations,” said Kristi Martin Rodriguez, leader of the Nationwide Retirement Institute. “We felt like we needed to think outside of the box to attract the next generation of talent to our company, and we believe this could emerge as a replicable model for others in our industry.”
In 2020, Rodriguez led the creation of the Financial Alliance for Racial Equity (FARE), a coalition of financial services companies and Historically Black Colleges and Universities focused on bringing more diverse talent into the industry and helping those individuals develop and thrive once in the door. She believes the apprenticeship program could be an approach that other members of the FARE coalition may want to replicate in the future.