CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University, in partnership with Education Credit Union (ECU), is set to open a new branch in Canyon, where students will make up the majority of employees.

According to WT, ECU will convert its existing branch at 2100 Fourth Ave. in Canyon into the student-led “Buff $mart Branch” after construction is finished at the ECU branch located at 1900 Farm-to-Market Road 2590 in Canyon.

The new student-led branch, with exception to a few-management-level ECU staffers, will provide the same financial services to ECU members that all branches offer.

“We value our partnership with WT, which has helped equip countless students with the life skill of managing their finances for several years,” said Eric Jenkins, president and CEO of Education Credit Union. “With the reconfiguration of this branch, we will not only serve our members, but we also will provide WT students the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in the workplace.” 

The release added that ECU sealed its partnership with WT in 2020 by making a donation to support the Education Credit Union Buff $mart Program, which coaches WT students on finances and empower them to make the right choices to improve their financial statues.

Meghan Williams, Buff $mart coordinator, explained that the partnership has worked well for students and ECU and WT want to expand the program by offering student paid internships.

“Through this initiative, we’ll be able to expand paid internship opportunities, and students will get hands-on work experience and opportunities for community engagement and networking,” Williams said. 

According to Kim Muller, director of WT’s Office of Career and Professional Development, internships are valuable to students in many ways.

“In addition to personal, academic and financial benefits, surveys show that 95 percent of employers say that candidate experience is a factor in hiring decisions,” Muller said. “Through internships like those to be offered at the Buff $mart branch, our students will be able to explore a potential career field and develop career-related skills while establishing a work history and being mentored by professionals.”  

WT President Walter V. Wendler explained that the partnership is a part of the goal of the university’s 125: From the Panhandle to the World plan.

“Too often, internships count job shadowing, watching and observation as ‘work.’ Such experiences do provide insight and knowledge, but very little experience with the real responsibility for the production of goods, ideas or services,” Wendler said. “By contrast, the experiences these students will have will better prepare them for their future.”