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By now, you are well aware that the Teach to Work team gets excited about mentorship and youth internship programs. Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Moody’s Analytics, the financial services company. We had already conversed with them prior to their 2019 summer internship launch—to share best practices and brainstorm—so we were excited to follow up and hear all the good things that ensued, the obstacles, and the lessons learned after their summer program was completed. For reasons I’ll share below, I believe the Moody’s Analytics intern program should be a case study for anyone looking to start a mentorship / youth internship program at their company.

Moody’s Analytics Discusses the ABC’s of their Experience

So how did their program get started and what will constitute success? These are just a few of the questions I had for Gus Harris, Executive Director, Moody’s Analytics, Jennifer Stula Rivera, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Kristina Ng, Assistant Vice President, Human Resources. As they described conceiving this internship initiative, it was a collaboration between their Corporate Social Responsibility department, buy-in from one of the Moody’s Analytics business units where the students would be working, and in-depth logistics with Human Resources.

To start, Moody’s identified the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) as the grantee they wanted to work with. Mr. Harris serves on the national board of NFTE and as an invested board member and senior leader in the financial sector saw the value both for the students and Moody’s in creating a summer internship program for untapped students. NFTE’s role was primarily to resource 6-8 students from untapped communities who were recent graduates of high school, embarking on college in the fall, and who had a proclivity toward the kinds of data-driven, financially oriented work assignments that Moody’s would require. Long before they even interviewed candidates, Moody’s constructed a budget, the program model, and the time allotments that would be necessary to provide ample management support.

Involving each student in a valid work project was also critical to the overall planning. To make business sense, the internship investment had to have a real work product to be completed that would add value to the Company. Of course, students would need to be trained at the start of the program.

The Program

Moody’s Analytics ran their pilot program during the summer of 2019. The program was initially designed as a 4-to-5-week program. There were five well-defined projects selected with clear objectives and achievable outcomes for this population. Projects included data reconciliation, data quality assurance, data analytics and marketing, bug verification, and product migration. The workdays were structured to reflect office hours: reporting at 9 a.m. and leaving at 5 p.m. But these are young people! There has to be more—right?

Importantly, and you know this is music to my ears, Project Based Mentoring® was integral to the structure of this program; the Moody’s team explained to the students the importance of each of their projects. The mentees understood that they were adding value to the company as a whole, and that accuracy and diligence were critical. Moreover, the project was the primary intersection whereby mentors worked with mentees. In fact, Mr. Harris called this project element “imperative” to the whole program. Objectives were clearly set out, providing a structure that would alleviate students feeling they were thrown into the deep end of the pool. Moody’s also assigned in-house mentors who were both role models and responsible for the delivery of the projects. The employees, as new mentors, were sufficiently prepared with expectations, and training on how to work with young people. Each student team would have a managing director and two mentors.

Interestingly, all students from all the respective projects worked together in the same co-habitating space. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Moody’s beautiful offices are up on the 52nd floor in the center of the Financial District, with floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary white conference tables to spread out. This collective team space worked quite effectively. Students could learn from each other’s projects; there were always experienced professionals streaming in and out of the space; and a rhythm for work became part of the experience.

Learning opportunities abounded during the internship. Interns were offered “Lunch and Learn” sessions where speakers would present on subjects relevant to students preparing for careers. Mentors were available for Q&A sessions. Finally, weekly “ask anything” training sessions were scheduled, where students could learn and ask about anything including topics like Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc.

Naturally, Moody’s Analytics would consider hiring experienced interns for future programs and employment opportunities.

The Impact

Moody’s, like other companies that have started mentorship programs, knows programs such as these fall squarely in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and early identification talent strategies. Moody’s believes that early engagement internships not only deepen relationships with grantee partnerships but also provide an opportunity for employees to mentor and elevate the career potential of others, all while developing their future workforce.

“Moody’s early engagement program squarely aligns with our CSR goal of helping young people from untapped populations reach their potential by preparing them for careers in finance, economics and technology,” said Ms. Stula-Rivera. “The program also allows for employee professional development as an opportunity for managers to hone skills for developing diverse talent. It is also great for early brand awareness to create our future talent pipeline.”

In Moody’s case, they used the 2019 pilot program to support their Finance, Data Science, and Technology teams. Other departments may be included in the future. Not only do internships and mentorships provide unique opportunities for students to experience the corporate world, a Moody’s internship in particular may open a student’s eyes to a professional career in finance that may not have previously been on their radar.

We’ve all read that purpose is on the minds of the future workforce. We know that Millennials and Gen Z want to work for a purpose-driven company, and statistics show that they are even willing to take a lower salary to join the ranks of a firm that aligns with their purpose. As Forbes Contributor Hayley Leibson has noted, “Purpose is about losing yourself— in something bigger than you. It is about wanting to make a difference and do for others—to help, to give, to serve. It is the legacy you are going to leave behind.”

“It’s important for companies to continue to understand, appreciate, and meet the specific needs of different generations,” Ms. Stula-Rivera added. “It better positions companies to attract, recruit, and retain the most talented employees, and adds to their competitive advantages.”

Moody’s also sees the tremendous value in being involved in their respective communities. As Mr. Harris stated, Moody’s knows that building constructive relationships with students and schools leads to positive brand-recognition and community goodwill for the company. And by partnering with NFTE, Moody’s was able to recruit students from under-served communities, with the explicit goal of giving high-potential candidates the opportunity to succeed.

Perhaps most importantly, in Mr. Harris’ opinion, feedback from both interns and employees was overwhelmingly positive. Mentors and sponsors were enthusiastic about extending the program in future summers, and the program was considered a worthwhile experience for all. According to Mr. Harris, the litmus test was when mentors and mentees were polled at the end of the program: “everyone wanted to do it again.” Ms. Ng added, “team members felt the program provided opportunities for different departments to collaborate. The experience created energy and fresh perspective for everyone.”

Next Steps

Moody’s knows that having a structured program means it will be scalable in the future. Additional companies who support NFTE might also take on interns.

Next season, Moody’s plans to start interviewing for the 2020 internships much earlier, in January. The company is exploring extending the length of the program for next summer and expanding the number of interns to multiple locations. Moody’s may also offer interns the opportunity to provide preferences for the projects they want to work on. For returning mentees, Moody’s is considering a way to incorporate them into the training of the new interns.

My heartfelt thanks goes to Moody’s and to all four representatives who made themselves available, for sharing tips and experiences that others can adopt. This abbreviated case study can give others a road map for their own internship program launch and an idea of the logistics and the rewards to make it successful.