Photo Copyright: National Football League (NFL) High School Expereinceship
As both a native Philadelphian, and an Eagles fan, for me the NFL Draft, hosted in Philadelphia late last month, was the best of both worlds. What I, and so many of us may not have realized, however, was how much of a learning opportunity was going on behind the scenes, thanks to the hard work of many – including the NFL’s VP of HR and SHRM Member Kim McFadden.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Kim about the NFL’s “Experienceship” program for high school students, which took place during the NFL Draft in Philadelphia. What I quickly learned was that, against the backdrop of one of the NFL’s biggest events, the NFL’s High School “Experienceship” program gave a number of NYC high school students an incredible opportunity to understand and aspire for a future career in the business of sports and sports marketing. Here’s a Q&A with the NFL’s Kim McFadden.
AM: As the lead for the NFL’s 2-day “Experienceship”, tell us how this initiative came about, its objective and why it was important for HR to take the lead?
KM: As we prepared for the Women’s Summit at the Super Bowl where the focus was young adult females, we realized we are at a time when more high school graduates are enrolling in college and looking for work. Students in their junior year are making critical decisions about the next phase of their education, which will ultimately impact future career paths. We know schools are continuing to increase counseling, career training or college preparation services; however, the private sector can also step in and help fill the void. We wanted the NFL to play a role and share in the responsibility to better prepare students for a successful future. Hence, The NFL High School Experienceship was born.
The program was a hands-on, two-day experienceship program that introduced high school juniors from the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem to the sports industry, specifically the National Football League (and its program partners). By educating students on career disciplines within the broader ecosystem of sports, the NFL was able to reach and inspire the workforce of tomorrow and encourage their commitment to further their education today.
AM: Why was it important to time the experienceship around the draft window, and what type of preparation did the young men and women go through to prepare themselves for the experience?
KM: The Draft was the perfect opportunity for the students to get hands-on experience and be exposed to the many different areas within sports. Students participated in NFL guided tours, had the ability to volunteer and saw the inter-workings among our partners, community and NFL staff. Prior to the Experienceship, participating students completed an intensive four-week workshop series. In preparation for their Draft-week visits, students created personal pitches and life maps and fine-tuned their presentation and networking skills.
AM: What was the experience like for those NFL employees and sponsors who participated?
KM: In the midst of the Draft, I thought it would be challenging to get volunteers to come in and speak to the students on Day 1 of the program. I was wrong – many employees raised their hands to help and provide insight into their career journeys. We also had executives from three of our partners come in and speak to the students about their careers and how they link to sports. The students came prepared and asked informed questions of all of the panelists and NFL staff. After Day 1, I received emails from partners and our staff stating how much they truly enjoyed speaking to the students and how impressed they were by the students’ engagement. All enthusiastically mentioned that they would participate again.
AM: What was your one key take-away from the program?
KM: As an HR professional, I have always had a commitment to developing employees and helping them reach their North Stars. With this program, we are helping the younger generation understand that they can be/do whatever they want to; but it takes hard work and dedication. We are hoping to make this an annual event and will continue to look at ways to build and improve upon this pilot program. A closing note, at the end of Day 2 of the program, four participants individually approached me and said that this program has changed the direction that they want to go in their future and opened their eyes to the possibilities to work in sports. It was so rewarding to hear because that’s what we set out to do with this program.
About Kim McFadden:
Kim McFadden is Vice President of Human Resources at the National Football League. In this role, Kim manages staff at NFL Headquarters in New York and NFL Films in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Prior to joining the NFL in 2008, Kim served as Director of Human Resources at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical R & D and worked in HR at Motorola and Lockheed Martin.
Kim holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Elizabethtown College. She lives in Yardley, Pa. with her husband Robert and their two children Robbi and Shannon.