Junior Achievement’s work in youth education recognized with 2022 Nobel Peace Prize nomination
For more than a century, Junior Achievement has been preparing, inspiring and nurturing young people to succeed in life via financial and work readiness education.
The commitment to ensuring stable and healthy economies by empowering future business leaders through education recently earned JA Worldwide a 2022 Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
“Peace is only possible when youth have economic power,” says Asheesh Advani, CEO of JA Worldwide.
Jennifer James, vice-president of programs and charter services for JA Canada, adds: “JA contributes to peace through the work we do to support young people in achieving prosperous and fulfilling careers.”
A rich history
The prestigious honour reflects a history that dates back to 1919, when Junior Achievement was founded in the U.S. as a non-profit youth organization, supported, in large part, by business communities and volunteers.
The nomination came from a Nobel laureate and acknowledges the organization’s global reach, its success in delivering economic education to youth at scale and its ability to find unity in diversity.
JA Canada was established in 1955 when the former president of Standard Oil Company brought the concept from the U.S. and engaged Vancouver’s business community in providing programs to 250 students.
From there, charters across the country were established; and to date, more than five million youth have taken part in various JA Canada programs at their schools and in their communities.
The three pillars of its youth program – entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy – are more relevant than ever, says James, and its partners in the education system have come to appreciate the value of teaching life and business skills to elementary and high school students.
“There’s an awareness of the need for these skills within the educational context,” she says. “If you’re working with teachers or leaders in education, they now know the importance of our program offering.”
Many provinces include courses in entrepreneurship, careers and personal finance as part of their curriculums. JA programs bring real work experience to the classroom to complement what educators are teaching, says James.
“We’re working more closely and are aligned with what educators and educational organizations have identified as priorities,” she explains.
JA’s hands-on approach to facilitation is also increasingly being favoured in classrooms. For instance, JA’s main youth program, Company Program, challenges students to create and run their own companies, from ideation to liquidation.
“Not every company succeeds,” explains André Gallant, senior director, programs and technology for JA Canada. “But everyone learns valuable lessons about running a business. We want it to be experiential.”
Since JA programs are often delivered by volunteers from the business community, the content is innovative and reflects current realities.
For instance, Gallant says students in recent years have been starting social enterprises and tech companies, including ones related to cryptocurrency.
In 2020, JA Canada launched the JA Campus, a virtual learning space that features all JA digital programs, training resources and new offerings, such as educational games and self-directed programs.
JA Canada programs are offered in both French and English at no cost to students or educators, and typically run in schools. Currently, the organization is assessing its reach across the country to be sure students from a range of communities have access and are participating in the free JA programs.
“We want to ensure participation in our programs is inclusive and equitable,” says James.
The most engaged students from JA Canada’s programs are celebrated with awards and scholarships. Some are invited to the annual Canadian Business Hall of Fame gala where they have an opportunity to interact with executive leaders.
“We see celebrating the accomplishments of the business community as the natural end state of being a successful entrepreneur,” says Gallant.
Carving out a meaningful economic future for today’s youth leads to a better society, says James, and JA programs are as timely today as they were 100 years ago because peace and prosperity will always be relevant.
“We are helping to prepare the world’s future leaders,” she says.
JA Canada by the numbers
Students who take part in JA programs in a typical year
Schools across Canada that host JA programs
Volunteers in a typical year
Users who engage on JA Campus annually
More likely a JA Canada alumni will go on to open their own business
More that JA Canada alumni earn, compared to their peers
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with JA Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.