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State Street launches UMass career program

The first time 21-year-old Casey Waugh processed a multimillion-dollar trade for financial giant State Street Corp. she was “terrified.”

A junior at UMass Amherst studying business, Waugh is also working in a State Street facility in nearby Hadley. She has gotten over her early trepidation and now looks forward to inputting trade records for State Street because of the insight it gives her into the securities business.

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“Actually working with real money, processing real trades has been a great learning experience,” Waugh said.

This kind of experience is at the core of a career development program created by State Street and the University of Massachusetts that provides part-time jobs for students with an interest in business and grooms the next generation of skilled workers for one of Massachusetts’ largest employers. The company and school will officially debut the new program at a ceremony Thursday at the new State Street offices in Hadley, just a few miles from campus.

Waugh got a headstart on her classmates, because she worked for State Street during the summer, too, in part helping the company set up its Hadley office.

The jobs were open to all UMass Amherst students, and the workers were chosen after an interview process earlier this year. The positions run through the school year.

The work entails entering information on trades that State Street, one of the world’s largest providers of administrative services to the financial industry, processes for its big institutional clients. The students are not making investment decisions for State Street’s clients, but rather handling the transactions initiated by an investment professional.

The jobs run from eight to 15 hours a week, and students manage their shifts around their class schedules. Although there is extensive job-related training, the program is not associated with any university course and no academic credit is awarded for participating.

However, both State Street and UMass said they are open to integrating the program with the school’s academic courses in the future.

The aim of the new program is to “connect students with real-world experiences to get them ready for the job market,” said Alison Quirk, State Street’s chief human resources executive.

State Street’s bread and butter business is taking care of the many back-office tasks associated with investment activity — from processing the actual trades to accounting mutual fund balances to exchanging currencies for clients.

State Street chief executive Jay Hooley has said a primary reason the company is expanding in Massachusetts — with a new building soon to be under construction in Boston — is the ready access to an educated class of young workers. The company, which employs 29,000 worldwide, has 12,000 workers in the state.

The students in the UMass program are not just performing a classroom exercise for State Street. The company expects the student workers will help it manage spikes in transactions during peak periods, such as around tax time, Quirk said. The company also expects these students, once they graduate, will be better candidates for full-time employment.

The new program expands on an existing relationship between State Street and UMass. In 2005, State Street and UMass launched the State Street Scholars Program, a nine-month internship program tailored for students attending the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Carol Barr, vice provost for undergraduate and continuing education at the university, said the work at the State Street office will allow students to develop “soft skills” that have become so valuable in today’s office environment, such as teamwork, relationship-building, and time management.

“There’s no substitute for the real world experience these students will get working at a global corporation like State Street,” Barr said.

Waugh, who grew up in Pepperell, spends eight hours a week in the Hadley office, in two four-hour shifts. Her experience at State Street, she said, has already inspired her to change her business career focus from management to operations.

“Now that I’m learning how financial securities are traded and tracked, I’m very interested in working with a process,” she said. “That’s something I could never have figured out before I worked at State Street.”

D.C. Denison can be reached at denison@globe.com.
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