New PNC hires share insights on what schools can do to prepare grads for the workplace

When PNC Financial Group hosted our Educator in the Workforce session earlier this month, participants didn’t just get an overview of careers in banking. The teachers and counselors also got some classroom tips.

Attendees learned from a panel of young, new hires what high school experiences had been most valuable in their first jobs and what they wish they’d been taught.

Among valuable experiences that the panelists took into the workplace were participation in team projects and being graded as a group. As students, they said they didn’t necessarily like group grading or find it fair. But in their jobs, they’ve come to recognize “that’s how it is in the workforce,” one young woman said.

Other important experiences ranged from learning to write meeting agendas in school clubs to giving presentations.

As for gaps in their learning, a couple said they didn’t think they’d gotten enough insight into the kinds of job opportunities there are, particularly for students not pursuing degrees. And, almost everybody on the panel agreed they’d received too little preparation in personal finance.

Educators also found out about the many kinds of jobs PNC offers and the ways in which it recruits, both from high schools and on college campuses.

For college students, PNC encourages internships. For high school students it encourages participation in PartnerUp, a pre-employment training program that PNC launched two years ago and offers directly in classrooms in collaboration with several other employers.

In all employees, PNC is looking for soft-skills, also known at the banking firm as “Power Skills,” said Brianna McMeekin, a Vice President and Talent Program Manager who organizes PartnerUp. Additionally, the banking firm wants employees to have a “growth mindset,” she said. Among other things, that means being intellectually curious, finding ways to add value in their roles and always seeking new ways to learn and contribute.

“We’re having a lot of success recruiting directly from high schools” because of PartnerUp,” McMeekin said. “We’ve had some awesome hires.”

Two of PartnerUp’s alums participated on the panel of new hires who shared insights with educators.

Both said the program was invaluable. A McKeesport Area High School gradulate, Madolyn Boynton, for example, said she just hadn’t found direction until she participated in PartnerUp. She said the program not only gave her a path, it helped her get experiences and tools needed to apply for any job, including resume preparation and interview rehearsals.

Educators said the feedback from such recent grads was illuminating as was hearing about PNC’s expectations, which are similar across many other workplaces.

For one Riverview School District teacher, the biggest takeaway was “We need to teach students to be self-starters.” After hearing PNC staffers describe qualities that go into a “growth mindset,” he said, “seeking was a common thread.”