Grade 9 students from across the Red Deer and Central Alberta region sat down at Red Deer College Wednesday and Thursday to talk about money and the future.
Students from 10 different schools gathered in separate classrooms to participate in the Economics for Success program by Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta, an organization that aims to engage youth in business and entrepreneurship.
“Economics for Success is about learning how money works inside and out in an interactive atmosphere,” said Paul Pettypiece, JA’s regional co-ordinator for the Central Alberta region.
The program, free to any school, is now in its 17th year.
“We’re teaching kids what it means to be financially independent, what a budget it, measuring their needs versus wants, luxuries versus necessities,” added Karen Vavrek, JA’s director of regional development.
“And really it does come down to showing students the importance of staying in school to enhance career opportunities.”
The other unique thing about Economics for Success, said Pettypiece, is that it’s run by volunteers who share their career and life experiences with the students through a series of hands-on learning activities and discussions.
Fifteen Grade 9 students from Alix MAC school listened as volunteer Dustin Quirk, a faculty member from RDC’s Donald School of Business, told them Thursday morning how expensive the cost of living was.
“Some of the everyday things you need you just don’t think about,” said student Jaida Krossa.
“And the prices of some of that stuff like food is pretty shocking when you add it all up.”
Quirk had the students play games, write out a monthly budgeting exercise, and later assigned them fictional jobs with net pay cheques for the month.
Some students had a budget of up to $5,000 a month and were only clearing $4,000, said Quirk.
“Programs like this are a wake up call. The students come in here with their own view of what the world is like and they think they’ve got it all figured out,” he said. “This is a fun way to open their eyes.”
Student Brad Kullman said it had been an interesting morning for sure.
“I think it’ll help us all get ready for life after school . . . Like, it doesn’t look like I’ll be travelling till I retire,” he joked.
Jared Baker, a Grade 9 student at Alix MAC, held up his fictional monthly cheque for $3,424.88.
Baker had to compare this income with his estimated monthly expenses.
A recent Boston Consulting Group study determined that for every $1 invested into a JA program, the economic benefit to society was $45 annual return. The group also reported that JA grads in the future would save more, borrow less, and go bankrupt less often than the average Canadian.
They’re also 50 per cent more likely to open their own business, said BCG.