SOME SILVER LININGS FROM THE PANDEMIC
By Michelle Jackson, President and CEO – Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada
We know that chamber members were impacted by the pandemic and it required them to be flexible and change the way they do business. Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada (JA) also had to change the way we approach our business of teaching life skills to K-12 grade students. In a matter of weeks, JA’s comprehensive programs in financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship went from being delivered face to face by a JA volunteer to being delivered over video web calls.
It began slowly in the spring of 2020 with teachers and schools who had partnered with JA for several years reaching out as they struggled to find content that they could use to engage students over distance learning. Through partnerships with Vegas Chamber programs like “The Truth About Being A Grown Up,” students were able to hear directly from experts on topics like buying your first car with Findlay Volkswagen. As the year progressed Junior Achievement was determined to be prepared to meet the needs of schools no matter where education was happening and when the 2020-2021 school year began, JA had over 20 programs ready to be delivered virtually to classrooms all over Nevada. By the end of December 2020, all but 2 of JA’s 40 program options spanning K-12th grades were ready for teachers, students, and volunteers.
Two of these programs – JA BizTown Adventures and JA Inspire Virtual Career Expo — became brand new offerings for educators that Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada had not been able to provide before. JA BizTown Adventures focuses on educating upper elementary students in personal finances and career exploration through simulated employee roles. Students complete 12 teacher led lessons that prepare them in the areas of financial literacy, community/economy, work/career readiness, and business management. After completing the lessons, students are given access to become an “employee or business owner” through the JA BizTown simulated job roles. JA BizTown is an incubator for elementary youth to be exposed to careers in Nevada that exist today and that will need employees in the future. Nevada has worked to diversify our economy for years, but has had difficulty overcoming the issue of talent needed by the businesses we want to attract. The JA BizTown program gives communities the tool to plant seeds of inspiration in young students for the careers they will have tomorrow!
JA Inspire Virtual Career Expo has blown away the restrictions of access, transportation and reach for students and business partners through its virtual conference center platform. After completing 5 self-guided lessons and a detailed skills and interest assessment, 8th -12th grade students from all over Nevada gain access to the JA Inspire Virtual Career Expo. In the virtual conference center, students are able to interact with businesses from all over Nevada while exploring future career opportunities in our state. Students also are able to hear from public figures and business leaders in the virtual auditorium through semi-live presentations. This year’s JA Inspire Expo took place on May 4th with more than 4000 student participants, and the virtual conference stays open for 90 days, allowing students to return several times to continue their journey of career exploration.
Thus, the silver lining: through these virtual programs, we have the ability to reach greater numbers of young people, preparing them to become tomorrow’s Chamber members and business leaders. We would like to invite you, as a Chamber member, to visit the JA Inspire Expo and see for yourself how this powerful new tool works. Just drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a link. We’d love to get your feedback.