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Training the Entrepreneurs of the Future

Training the Entrepreneurs of the Future

An interview with Caroline Jenner, CEO, JA Europe

Caroline Jenner is on a mission to make entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills training an integral part of a student’s education. As CEO of Junior Achievement Europe (JA), Jenner is working closely with schools, businesses and other stakeholders and partners to develop a programme that will ultimately facilitate the match between demand and supply in the labour market.

The result is the Entrepreneurial Skills Pass (ESP). The ESP is an internationally recognised qualification that students earn after going through a rigorous process of starting and running their own mini companies. Backed by corporate giants including Microsoft and Barclays, the ESP helps students to start and run their own mini companies, giving them the practical skills and knowledge of entrepreneurship that’s lacking in traditional education.

The statistics to date are compelling:

  • Approximately 250,000 students participate in mini-companies across 39 countries within the JA network each year.
  • The ESP is in its first full rollout in 18 countries.
  • 3,000 students from academic and vocational schools have already earned their ESP.

The long-term objective of the ESP is to develop the programme in three dimensions by:

  • expanding the number of countries adopting the ESP
  • increasing the total number students earning their ESP; and
  • getting more stakeholder organisations to endorse the programme, which is where Drop’pin comes in.

Caroline Jenner talks to us about the need for entrepreneurial skills development and the importance of partnership.

Why did you decide to launch the Entrepreneurial Skills Pass?

The Europe 2020 strategy sets targets in terms of entrepreneurship education and aims to provide young people across Europe with the skills and competencies employers are looking for as well as to raise students’ awareness of their entrepreneurial potential while they are still at school. The ESP is one of the ways in which JA Europe is contributing to that strategy.

VET students have specialised technical skills and, through their mini company, they have added entrepreneurial acumen that is so important for their future careers. We felt that students needed something that would truly communicate to others what they ‘know how to do’. The Entrepreneurial Skills Pass (ESP) does that very well, and, what’s more, it is an international certification. It an extra leg up as they move into entrepreneurship and/or employment at a time when they need as many references as possible.

Beyond the benefits to students, the ESP has value for the entrepreneurship education ecosystem. We can see how much progress is being made across a spectrum of entrepreneurial competencies from the beginning of the year to the end. We can check to see key concepts are understood. The ESP will play a role in improving the consistency and quality of mini-company experiences across Europe, across education systems.

What organisations have you worked with in developing the Skills Pass?

The ESP is a project co-funded by the European Commission. The project began as a collaboration between the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) and the JA network. It expanded to include the European Business Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Europe) and a number of international organisations and companies such as EUROCHAMBRES and Barclays, Citi, HP, Hyundai, Intel, Microsoft, MetLife Foundation, SAP, UBS or VISA, with long track records in supporting entrepreneurship education.

Why did you choose to partner with Drop’pin for the ESP?

Drop’pin came along at the right time with the right kind of solution. Youth focused, safe, user-friendly and attractive it provides a fantastic go-to-place for ESP students looking for further opportunities. Drop’pin will also be an important channel to promote ESP, by allowing more companies and institutions to learn about the programme.

What outcomes do you hope to achieve for organisations?

The ESP represents a valuable complement to standard academic qualifications. It certifies that a young person has the required knowledge, competences and skills, facilitating the recruitment and training process.

How can organisations get involved in the programme?

It is very easy for organisations and companies to endorse the ESP. Three options are available: 1) to provide volunteers at the local level in any country, 2) to sponsor a student, 3) to open a door to further opportunities. Or all three!

By engaging their human capital, organisations can mentor ESP students in schools, share their expertise through on-site or online presentations or join the jury of a competition. Another way to become involved is to support ESP participants with individual donations by sponsoring the exam fee. Last but not least, organisations can contribute to the ESP by offering successful ESP candidates’ further opportunities in the form of further training, work experience, or start-up support.

More information about how to endorse the ESP is available on the website.

My Shadow and Me: A Job Shadow Experience

My Shadow and Me: A Job Shadow Experience

by Elizabeth Bintliff, CEO, JA Africa

Originally published on September 14, 2016 on LinkedIn Pulse.

This week, Junior Achievement Africa’s program in Zimbabwe is hosting an ambitious new program called ‘Take 10,000 Girls to Work.’ It is a bold program which aims to address some of the gaps that girls face transitioning from school to the world of work, especially the preconceptions they have about their mutual suitability for certain jobs. One of JA’s programmatic pillars is work readiness. What we mean by this is interventions that help young people obtain and keep new jobs: these include teaching them how to create resumes or CVs, interviewing skills, job placements, internships, how to establish a digital presence, workplace comportment, dress, attitude; the list goes on.

Job shadows are an important piece of this pillar; they expose young people to the options that are available to them in a given field, as well as demystifying and clarifying what certain jobs entail. Students learn, for example that lawyers work not only in law firms but also in supermarket chains, in banks, hotel chains and with even non-profits. Over the course of this week young girls from schools all over Zimbabwe are paired with professionals in a variety of fields with companies like Nestle, Barclays and NBCA Bank and organizations like Plan International and CORDAID. During the day, they ‘shadow’ their host; attend meetings, observe them, ask questions, and get a feel for the job. They shadow administrators, executives, bankers, lawyers and other professionals.

As part of the program I was given a shadow; a young 19 year old girl called Tiraro Mudawawiriwo, who is in her last year of high school at St. Joseph High School in Mutare, a city on Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique. Young, intelligent, perceptive and ambitious, Tiraro admitted to being hesitant when we first met, but we warmed up to each other quickly. We visited JA Zimbabwe’s offices, an alumnus who, when he graduated with university degrees in philosophy and psychology and could not find a job decided to become a beekeeper, and we visited a nearby school where JA’s programs are being taught. One of my ground rules when I speak with our students is that nothing is off the table; I welcome them to ask me anything. Sometimes they are apprehensive, but today, with Tiraro next to me the students we met at the JA program at Saint Dominic’s high school later in the day went for it. We talked about a number of topics; they wanted to know about my career journey, my educational background, my family status and how I balance work, travel and parenthood.

So much about being with the girls (and boys) I interact with on my visits to the field reminds me of my own experiences as a young girl in a catholic boarding school not far from Cameroon’s border with Nigeria. But young girls these days seem to be faced with so many more challenges than my generation had: the benefits of cellphone and web technology bring with them both distractions and temptations. Additionally, I find that the things girls worry about when they consider their futures also vary from the concerns of their male counterparts. Boys assume their career progression is a given, while girls fret about whether their ambitions and aspirations will come true and how they will balance that success with having families. So my conversations today were not just about how to run a successful business, but also the importance of marrying a supportive spouse.

My shadow had questions about many of these things and I answered openly, honestly and comprehensively. Tiraro is studying business, math and economics and hopes to major in Economics early next year at the University of Zimbabwe. As the Finance Manager in the JA Company in her school, she has learned a lot that she will take with her to her next chapter. She is not sure what she wants to do when she works; but she is clear about how she wants things to be: “I want to be a manager. I want to move to the top of the company. I want to create an environment that is fun for employees and where they can feel free and be productive.”

I learned a lot from Tiraro today and I’m confident that for Africa’s next generation of business leaders the stars are rising, and that she is one of them.

Financial Education Is Vital — But Not for the Reason You Think

Financial Education Is Vital — But Not for the Reason You Think

by Michael Mercieca, CEO, Young Enterprise (JA in the UK)

Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.co.uk on June 25, 2015.

When it comes to the debate on financial and enterprise education in UK schools, there’s a powerful standard argument: children need to learn how to manage, spend and save their money; they also need to learn to be employable; these things enable adults to be productive members of society and control their own future. And that’s good for the UK economy. But the other day I came across another very compelling — and very worrying — argument.

Earlier this year, noted economist Professor Noreena Hertz from University College London conducted a survey on the attitudes of British and American girls aged between 13 and 20 years old. The findings are startling and led Hertz to coin the term ‘Generation K’, after Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the Hunger Games films.

Writing in the Financial Times, Hertz says: “Many of those in their twenties and thirties — the ‘Yes we can’ generation — grew up believing the world was their oyster. But for Generation K the world is less oyster and more Hobbesian nightmare. […] They are a group for whom there are disturbing echoes of the dystopian landscape Katniss encounters in The Hunger Games’s District 12. Unequal, violent, hard.”

Technology has shaped this new Generation K. Born after the advent of the internet, they can access all the information they need, can communicate with friends and family instantly and think globally rather than locally. But they’ve also been shaped by incredibly negative forces: the economic crisis, the great recession, the almost constant threat of terrorism and savage global conflicts. Add to this the constant talk of university debt, cuts and austerity, and the less positive aspects of modern technology: the peer pressure of social media, the shock-horror online news media, and the ability to spend money online at the tap of a button in an almost cashless-world.

Contrast this with the childhood of the previous, the 20-something and 30-something girl-power generation. For the older ones, there was no home computer and for the younger ones it was still an expensive luxury few could afford. For both, the internet was complex and relatively small in scale. There was no Facebook. Buying things online was dangerous and for parents only. These children grew up playing outdoors and their prized possession was a Sony Walkman. They grew up at a time when the British and global economy was fairly stable and, during their formative early years, you can imagine them believing all was relatively right with the world.

What now? According to Hertz, today, 75% of teenage girls are worried about terrorism; 66 per cent worry about climate change; 50% worry about Iran. She continues: “They also worry inordinately about their own futures. 86% are worried about getting a job; 77% about getting into debt.” And there’s the rub. If we trust the survey results, almost all Generation K young people are hugely anxious and worried about getting a job and getting into debt.

I was shocked by the results of this survey. It’s so easy to forget how worrying the future must be for young people today. I, for one, do not want our young people to be this worried about getting a job and getting into debt. Not when it’s in our power to teach them how to manage their money and see life as a series of exciting career choices and business opportunities.

At Young Enterprise, which now incorporates the Personal Finance Education Group (pfeg) we believe you need to start early. And we’re not alone: according to research by the Money Advice Service in 2013, authored by behaviour experts at Cambridge University, financial habits are formed by the age of seven. We also believe you need to make it fun. A great example of this is our Fiver Challenge (supported by Virgin Money), aimed at primary schools. Participants are challenged to set up mini-businesses to create products or services they can then sell or deliver at a profit, and engage with their local community. The Fiver Challenge introduces young people to the world of enterprise and helps build important employability skills, such as risk-taking, teamworking, problem solving, communication and financial literacy, which they can continue to develop in later life.

Through our Women in Business programme, we work in partnership with The Government Equalities Office and GE Capital to provide unparalleled opportunities for female undergraduates to engage with inspiring mentors in the creative industries and the visitor economy. And we’ve also just held our seventh annual My Money Week, a national activity week for primary and secondary schools. With free teaching resources, ideas and competitions (which we have re-introduced with help from Visa Europe), it gives children and young people an opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge they need to look forward to their financial future with confidence.

I’m confident that at Young Enterprise we are working as hard as we can to equip this generation of children, and the next, with the financial and employability skills they need. I hope what we’re doing alleviates some of their worries and gives them back a feeling of control over their future. But, of course, we can’t do it alone. Our children and schools need the full support of both government and business to develop a long-term strategy to embed financial education into every aspect of the curriculum, right from our four-year-olds in reception up to graduation at higher/further education.

If we could turn the page, start afresh and work together; commit ourselves to financial and enterprise education across the curriculum at all stages and do whatever it takes to really engage young people, perhaps will we see a new generation free from this crippling fear of debt and unemployment. Surely we have to try?