Students in the Junior Achievement Company Program learn that some of the best lessons are taught outside the classroom.
The work experience opportunities for high school students have come a long way since the day camps, restaurants and factories of my youth. Forget the menial jobs of the past; today’s teenagers have their sights set on C-suite business opportunities.
While they’re not taking the helm of any company you know — yet — the Junior Achievement (JA) Company Program is giving high school students the chance to build and run their own companies. Make no mistake; there is no pretend play here. The stakes are high because they have to work with a real budget consisting of money from their own pockets or external funding, which they have to figure out on their own.
Welcome to the Real World
A group of 18 Greater Vancouver high school students are currently attending weekly sessions at our Burnaby office as part of JA British Columbia, just one of the many branches of the global initiative. JA teaches the things students don’t usually learn at school, like how to manage their finances or be successful in a business setting. For four months at Traction on Demand, they’ll learn what it takes to operate an actual business enterprise with lessons in entrepreneurship, marketing, budgeting and leadership.
Welcome to the real world, kids.
Some of the lessons will be tough: jostling to get that coveted CEO position, making difficult decisions and hustling to find a manufacturer that will work within budget. But better to learn these lessons now, rather than being surprised or disappointed when they join the workforce for real. So far, the students have gone through a legitimate (albeit condensed) interview process with Jocelyn Meyer, our very own Talent Acquisition Specialist — and yes, the CEO position has now been filled, thank you for applying.
School of Hard Knocks
Mike Watson, a Strategic Solutions Manager at Traction on Demand, is one of seven volunteer mentors. “When I was a kid, I was disappointed with school. It was the extra curricular activities that gave me more skills in life than what school taught me. I’m entrepreneurial by nature so I get excited in starting something new and helping others on that journey.”
Supporting these students means being real with them when an idea is not working out. “These students have to make some tough decisions. Before settling on the idea to create ‘Spotlight,’ a device that lights up the inside of bags, the students wanted to build a combination pen and whiteout device (editor’s note: it warms my heart that Gen Z still know what whiteout is). However, they weren’t able to find a manufacturer who wouldn’t lock them into a deal for several years, so they were forced to pivot their business.” Mike says this experience in overcoming barriers is just as valuable as being successful. “Ultimately, it’s not about profit and whether or not they ‘lose.’ A lesson in failure is still a good lesson.”
The Junior Achievement Company Program at Traction on Demand is being sponsored by Traction for Good (T4G), which empowers kids to code and explore other areas in technology. Michelle Malpass, Director of Community Performance at Traction on Demand, says hosting Junior Achievement allows Tractionites from the non-technical side to also get involved in youth mentorship. “It’s not just about teaching the hard skills,” she says. “It’s about helping to develop the soft skills that are needed to excel in any work setting.”
An important thing for these teens to keep in mind as they work towards becoming tomorrow’s CEOs.
Know a budding entrepreneur? Encourage them to check out the many program opportunities with Junior Achievement.
Written by Karen Glanzberg, Content Developer at Traction on Demand. She received her high school CAPP (Career and Personal Planning) credits by spending a week packaging traditional Japanese sweets in her uncle’s factory.