It’s the curious, passionate and inquisitive kid — not necessarily the valedictorian — who is the job creator of the future, Anita Newton said.
And companies should do all they can to learn from such youth, she added.
“What’s happening a lot in the world today is all this reverse mentoring,” said Newton, chief innovation officer at CommunityAmerica Credit Union. “Young people are teaching the older people how to consume media and use tools.”
To tap into these insights, CommunityAmerica plans to hire about 20 high school students from Johnson County, Kansas, for the credit union’s first annual Teen Advisory Innovation Board.
“Teens are perfect for innovation because they are incredibly tech savvy and have grown up with these tools,” said Newton, who is also the co-founder of the Mighty Handle device. “We’re looking for students who are articulate, have something to say, have opinions about things, social, want to communicate, are good listeners and empathetic.”
Selected teens will meet a couple hours per month from January to June 2018 and will be compensated $200 dollars for their time, she said. Interns will also witness every step of the innovation process, offering real-world experience developing, prototyping and bringing a product to market with measurements, Newton said.
“We tried to maximize the amount of learning with a minimal amount of time because we know teens are busy,” she said. “They’ll get to meet teenagers from around a bunch of schools which is great if they could meet other people that are like-minded and curious and interesting that’s another benefit.”
Students attending Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley and Olathe School Districts are eligible to apply until Nov. 30. The application is expected to take about 30 minutes and asks students to submit a short video sharing one thing they like about their favorite social media application, three things they would change about it and why.
Newton is confident that the program will have mutual benefit for both the students and the credit union, she said.
“I don’t know how you can succeed as a seasoned entrepreneur without very direct mentorship from young people,” Newton said. “I have young digital natives that I call on frequently when I have questions.”
Newton hopes students also will help shape the pilot program itself by sharing what worked and what didn’t. If successful, CommunityAmerica plans to expand to Jackson County, Missouri, and other areas of the metro next year, she said.
In June, CommuityAmerica launched its Innovation Lab with Newton, former CMO of Adknowledge, at the helm. The lab is focused on creating tools for the credit union’s members that will help them plan for college, get married or deal with the launch of a family member.
Newton spent her first month on the job interviewing members to discover their needs, she said.
“The role of a bank is evolving,” Newton said. “(The Innovation Lab is) looking at all the things that keep our members up at night and figuring out how can we address them. Now, we are looking at how to digitize these things. … It’s been a blast.”
A regional organization, CommunityAmerica is the largest credit union in the Kansas City area. It has 210,000 members, 27 branches and manages more than $2 billion in assets.
To apply for the Teen Advisory Innovation board, click here.