Suzanne Musolino

Junior Achievement embracing an online generation

Times are changing and Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta is making new waves so it doesn’t get left behind. “Almost all our programs are going through a major redo this year,” said Paul Pettypiece, regional co-ordinator for the Central Alberta region. “So hopefully by this fall not only will they be more updated but they will also be more digitalized — more in tune with today’s technology.”

Times are changing and Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta is making new waves so it doesn’t get left behind.

“Almost all our programs are going through a major redo this year,” said Paul Pettypiece, regional co-ordinator for the Central Alberta region.

“So hopefully by this fall not only will they be more updated but they will also be more digitalized — more in tune with today’s technology.”

The organization, a non-profit that aims to engage youth in business and entrepreneurship, is celebrating 54 years in Alberta this year. Its programs have been running free of charge in Central Alberta, from Olds to Alix, for 27 of those.

Junior Achievement’s five local programs conducted in about 24 schools per year in the region are currently workbook based, Pettypiece explained.

While he couldn’t provide any precise detail yet, he said plans are being developed to change that.

“We depend on volunteers to deliver the programs so one of the things this new approach will take will be enabling them to be delivered by the teacher rather than have volunteers go in — we’ll still need volunteers of course but not as many. (We also want) . . . more incorporation of the Smart Board and other devices,” he said.

Junior Achievement hopes to expand the revamped programs to even more schools throughout Central Alberta in the 2014-2015 school year. They reached about 1,776 students last year, spanning 16 communities.

“We’d like to see more high school involvement from the upper grades. Right now, most of them are geared to those in Grade 5 to 10,” Pettypiece said.

“One of the things we’d really like to get into the high schools here is our Company Program, our flagship program . . . where students create their own company from scratch, create a product or service, market it and sell it, share the proceeds and wrap it up.”

The Central Alberta chapter of Junior Achievement has been struggling for the past few years to find a high school to host the Company Program, which runs in its Southern Alberta counterpart. It currently offers the Business Basics program, Dollars with Sense, Economics for Success and the Investment Strategies Program.

The main thrust of Junior Achievement is teaching financial literacy, Pettypiece said, and preparing adolescents for the leap into the real world.

A Boston Consulting Group study determined that for every $1 invested into a Junior Achievement program, the economic benefit to society was $45 annual return.

The group also reported that students with Junior Achievement lessons under their belts are three times more likely to spend less than they earn and are far less likely to be unemployed or rely on social assistance.

They are likely to do better financially than the average Canadian and also 50 per cent more likely to open their own business.

Things like Junior Achievement can really make a difference when it comes to planting that entrepreneurship seed in young students, said Devon Wald, who sits on the Central Alberta Rural Leadership Council with the organization.

“When I was in school I didn’t get the benefit of having people come speak frankly about business concepts,” said Wald, who has been involved for the past 16 years with Junior Achievement.

The organization also made strides earlier this month when it revitalized its World of Choices Career Forum for the first time in about a decade, now a co-ed event (previously it was girls only).

It featured three special quests, Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and Scott McDermott, an athletic trainer and motivational speaker, as well as various career tables where students could sit down and chat with a mentor in a specific field such as environmental science or public service.

“We tried to have a good mix of traditional and non traditional jobs so students can be introduced to careers they might not have thought about before and what some educational requirements are. It was quite successful and hopefully it opened some eyes,” Wald said.

Over 40 students came out for the forum. Pettypiece said they hope to attract well over double that number next year.

For more information, visit www.southern-alberta.jacan.org.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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