When you were growing up, did you have someone encouraging you and telling you to reach for the stars?

When you were growing up, did you have someone encouraging you and telling you to reach for the stars? Or consistently exposing you to new ideas and new opportunities? What about recommending that you start your own business? 

Do you wonder how your life would be different if you participated in a program when you were young that taught you business and entrepreneurial skills and created opportunities for you? Some children are lucky – they have a family member or loved one building them up and exposing them to new opportunities to learn and grow. Others need a little help from their community. This is where Global Impact partner JA Worldwide (JA) comes in.  

JA is a nonprofit organization that prepares youth for the future of work, ensures they have the tools to be financially capable adults and teaches them to think entrepreneurially. They do this by building abilities and nurturing self-belief. 

JA equips young people with not only the employment and entrepreneurship skillsets they need to succeed, but also – perhaps most importantly – the mindsets.  It is their mission to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in global economies.

In 2020 alone, their network of over 310,000 volunteers served more than 10.5 million students across over 100 countries. Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, JA Worldwide is the global governing body for the Junior Achievement network. Their regional operating centers include JA USA, JA Americas, JA Africa, JA Asia Pacific, JA Europe and INJAZ Al Arab JA MENA.

Here are five things you should know about JA’s incredible work:

1. All of JA’s 50 programs   are based around 3 key principals: Work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. 

They are designed to be fun, hands-on, high-impact experiences that give young people a taste of life in the real world. Some programs focus on one principal, while others might cover two or three. 

Work readiness 
JA’s volunteer-led work-readiness programs teach critical work skills that prepare young people for college, trade school or the workforce. Opportunities include shadowing skilled mentors, testing their skills through digital experiences, and developing business solutions during technical and business challenges. These initiatives help JA students become prepared for the future of work.  They learn valuable lifelong skills like communication, dependability, problem solving and self-motivation.  

Financial literacy   
JA’s hands-on, role-playing financial-literacy programs expose young people to smart saving and investing, thoughtful spending and credit, the role of taxes, the value of employment and community involvement, and the opportunities of global trade. Skills developed here include negotiation, decision-making and risk management.  

Through JA’s real-world entrepreneurship programs, students create real companies with real products, working as a team on product development, small business finance, product marketing and equity valuation as they launch their entrepreneurial careers. Participants learn perseverance, teamwork, leadership and creativity.

2. Certain participants are eligible for the coveted JA Entrepreneurial Skills Pass (ESP).

The JA ESP is an international certification for students who have built a real startup company through the JA Company Program. It certifies that they have gained the knowledge, skills and competencies to start a business or to be successfully employed. 

The ESP is JA’s first global micro credential and validates and certifies students’ knowledge and experience in running a business. The ESP indicates the owner has a full year of entrepreneurship experience, a self-assessment of entrepreneurial competencies, and an examination of business, economic, and financial knowledge. 

This credential is very valuable to potential employers. Companies understand that “intrapreneurs” (entrepreneurs who pursue a career in someone else’s company) make great employees who are unafraid of risks, are passionate and driven to solve any challenge, and are experienced at making the most of limited budgets and staff.

3. There is an abundance of incredible JA alumni success stories to share. 

Here is one:

Bruce Poon Tip first traveled to Asia when he was 23. During this trip, he saw that there was a gap in the travel market between the mainstream traveler and the backpacker. He envisioned travel to be more culturally fulfilling and authentic if you could experience a place more as a local, though he understood that a backpacking-style trip wouldn’t suit everyone. As a JA alumnus, he had the confidence to try and bridge the gap.

He reflected back to when he was 14 years old. He had just joined the JA Company Program after starting a bookmark company. “I sold bookmarks in drugstores, and I negotiated contracts with drugstore chains!” Bruce fondly remembers. The JA Company program is where students are asked to produce a product, create a company and manage their business from start to finish.  

Armed with the entrepreneurial skills he learned years ago, he founded G Adventures, an adventure-travel company that pioneered the space between cruises/coach tours and backpacking.  The company creates tours by building meaningful relationships with local communities that directly benefit the people and places visited. Tours feature the connections, charm and authenticity that can only be found in local accommodations, transportation and off-the-beaten path restaurants and shops. Travelers will stay at smaller hotels and eat at restaurants with fewer people. Using local services helps support the local economy and, in turn, the people that make the places visited so special. All of their guides are locally-based and each trip is made up of intimate groups of like-minded travelers who are seeking these local experiences. 

Bruce’s company is now the largest small group travel company in the world, with offices in 28 countries and an annual revenue of over $200 million.

“JA was, without a doubt, the most important thing I did before I started a company,” Bruce says. “JA inspired me and transformed my thinking, and it was the first time there was a place where I could harness my ideas about business and entrepreneurship.”

4.  JA programs are backed by hard numbers 

Bruce’s example says it all – JA’s programs show global results. Here are a few impact statistics: 

  • A majority of JA high school students in Asia Pacific say JA helped them understand the importance of school, with 72% indicating their wish to pursue higher education.
  • When compared to non-alumni, JA alumni in the U.S. are 40% more likely to become a manager, 20% less likely to be unemployed, 30% more likely to have a four-year degree, and 67% more likely to have an advanced degree.
  • In Spain, math test scores improved 20% as a result of participation in JA programs, while absence from school dropped between 30% and 80%, depending on the JA program available.
  • More than 70% of low-income Latin American female students enrolled in a specialized JA entrepreneurship program say that it’s highly likely they’ll own their own businesses within a year.
  • JA alumni in Canada are 25% less likely to be unemployed and 20% less likely to collect social assistance than non-alumni.

5. You can help make a difference in the lives of young people with JA Worldwide. Here are a few ideas:

  • Workplace giving. Support JA through your workplace giving campaign.
  • Matching gifts. Be sure to check if your organization offers a matching gift, so you can amplify your donation to JA.
  • Partner. Approach your company’s leadership about becoming a corporate partner of JA Worldwide. Their partners provide funding for educational programs, join regional and local boards, and volunteer directly with students.  
  • Virtual events. Host a virtual coffee break, lunch and learn or team meeting featuring JA Worldwide and hear their inspirational stories first-hand.  
  • Participate. You can watch the progress of JA students and leaders as they participate in business and STEM challenges, competitions, career events and financial-literacy workshops. In addition, JA leaders from around the world speak at events, moderate panels and celebrate JA milestones. JA also participates in a number of U.N., G20, and World Economic Forum events and recognitions. See available event opportunities here. 
  • Stay informed. Sign up for the JA Worldwide newsletter. 

The next entrepreneur is out there, waiting to be inspired to follow their dreams. Thankfully, there is a JA Worldwide location nearby, in every corner of the world, to help lift them up and prepare them for the world ahead. Reach out to us at [email protected] to learn more.