How to Empower Our Future Workforce

Q+A with Junior Achievement BC (JABC)

When British Columbia students are equipped with the knowledge and confidence to dream big and take control of their future, it sets them up for lifelong success.

That’s the focus of Junior Achievement British Columbia (JABC), who work with youth from Grades 4 – 12 gain valuable skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship through a wide range of educational programs.

The non-profit organization’s goal is to inspire, prepare and empower B.C. youth by providing interactive, hands-on learning experiences to students through partnerships with educators and volunteers from local businesses.

In the last two years alone they’ve worked with more than 71,327 students through 2,874 programs delivered by thousands of volunteers and educators. There’s no charge for participants, and the programs are supported through community and family foundations, corporations and individual donations, and volunteers.

JABC has been a member of SIPP since 2020. Susan Shepherd, Development Officer, tells us how their goals align with ours, and how they prepare a future-ready workforce committed to a healthy economic future.

Children in a classroom

Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?

Junior Achievement (JA) is a non-profit organization that values connections with local businesses. We partner with local business volunteers to deliver our program content and bring their real-world experiences to students in Grades 4 to 12. Our business education programs focus on financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship skills which is a great fit with SIPP’s mandate and membership.

What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region?

Our youth are the key to a successful future. According to the B.C. Labour Market Outlook 2022 forecast, labour demand is expected to grow faster than labour supply. As a result, tight labour market conditions, where the demand for workers surpasses the supply of workers, are expected in the later part of the outlook period. Over the 10-year outlook period to 2022, demand for workers is expected to out-grow the labour force by 42,250 workers.

Island youth need to be made aware of the opportunities that lay ahead for them. It is important to showcase the variety of career pathways open to them, and give them the tools to develop their own personalized educational plans to help drive their high school course selections, post-secondary education and career goals so that they align with the jobs of the future.

What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?

The ability to get around easily in our small geographically region while also being conveniently located near two large cities (Vancouver and Seattle) is extremely attractive for individuals and businesses. We are able to offer a high quality of life with excellent public services which includes three reputable post-secondary institutions. The City already draws innovative entrepreneurs to our growing technology industry, which adds to the vibrancy of existing government and cultural activities.

What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?

Our long-term goal is for all B.C. youth to have access to a life-changing JA program. Prior to COVID, our only delivery option was in-person/in-class. This mono delivery option was going to take us several years to reach our lofty goal. As a result of the pandemic and the increased demand for JA programs and resources from educators and students, JABC has been able to transition all of our in-class programs to an online learning environment. This initiative is not only a cost-effective and flexible delivery option, but it removes regional and economic barriers to give more youth across the region access to our free program content.

What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?

Junior Achievement (JA) has been a leader in youth business education programs for over 100 years. Established in the United States, 65 years ago, JA British Columbia (JABC) was the first Charter established outside of the U.S. JABC is a member of JA Canada and JA Worldwide, and is part of a global network spanning over 100 countries. JABC’s innovative programs incorporate a mix of modern and traditional delivery methods and are specially designed to complement and fill gaps in the classroom curriculums. Our in-school and extra-curricular programs are delivered free to charge with the support and cooperation of business volunteers, educators and philanthropic supporters.

What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?

A recent Ipsos survey conducted on behalf of accounting firm MNP, reported that more than half of Canadians are living within $200 per month of not being able to pay all their bills or meet their debt obligations. In many cases, the concept that families can instill healthy financial habits in their children doesn’t apply as it’s difficult for parents to pass along skills they don’t possess. If children are not learning financial skills at home, then they need to be provided with the opportunity to learn at school.

With the COVID-19 crisis, these financial pressures are being amplified as family incomes are impacted and they learn to navigate the new economy. A lack of employment and financial literacy education holds back entire communities from reaching their full potential. When credit card debt rises, consumers have less money to spend at local restaurants and shops. When someone defaults on a car loan, it affects a small business because that employee can’t get to and from work. When a recent graduate has massive student loans to pay, they have a harder time putting a down payment on their first home.

Working with youth offers the opportunity to intervene at a stage when they are still forming their habits and developing important socioemotional skills that can lead to more responsible financial decisions.

What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?

The two most important lessons that have impacted us are adaptability and resilience. Our ability to pivot our traditional in-person delivery options to online has allowed us to remain relevant and expand our programs to more communities outside of large urban areas. As an example, there are now only 8 B.C. School Districts that are not currently delivering JA programs – this compares to 15 Districts pre-COVID

We are currently projecting that we will deliver 1,548 programs next school year (Sept 2021 – June 2022). In addition to continuing to deliver our core programs, we plan to deliver our popular TechWorks capstone event (a program that highlights tech-related careers) and introduce a new Career Speaker Program. We have also been able to develop new partnerships – in particular one with the Industry Training Authority (ITA) to pilot our E-Trades program.

While JABC operations continue to adapt to the new normal, we are very optimistic about the future

When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?

Victoria-area youth are more optimistic, financially literate and have built skills for lifelong success.

We know youth are three times as likely as adults to be unemployed, and this can lead to them having to leave the region to find work. At the same time, businesses struggle to find skilled employees to be competitive. Skill shortages restrict a business’s capacity to compete and grow. Education and skills are important to youth development, and they influence economic and social outcomes. It is important that we support our youth to help them feel empowered so that they can make the right decisions in choosing a well-paying, interesting job right here in our region.

Find out more about Junior Achievement British Columbia (JABC)