Training youth for economy of the future

Despite the vastly changing times in business and technology, Junior Achievement continues to train young people to work in the real world and expose them to an array of opportunities.

“We were founded almost a hundred years ago, teaching kids how to start businesses, how to run businesses,” said Ed Grenier, President of Junior Achievement, a not-for-profit organization introducing young people to opportunities and helping them forward towards a successful adulthood.

“Over time… we’ve evolved to a point where our three pillars now are entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy.”

Junior Achievement sets itself apart by fostering personal, mentoring relationships with area role models in entrepreneurship, “teaching them how work works,” Grenier told What’s Working in Washington.

“In greater Washington alone, we had almost 6,000 role models, people from the business community, who come into classrooms. We look at ourselves as an organization that has the ability to do that on scale,” he said.

These role models are important, said Grenier, because the children they teach don’t often have role models who work in the modern business world.

Though the organization is national, “we’re very focused on letting the local operations be entrepreneurial, and plug themselves into the local economies, and tweak what we do nationally, to make it local,” Grenier said.

One of Grenier’s favorite parts of the curriculum is a simulation of a business ecosystem, complete with a 10,000 square foot mini-mall. “By one o’clock, there’s moments where we’re throwing these curve balls at them… and then they get it, the lightbulb goes on, that this is not easy, being an adult is difficult,” said Grenier.

“We have the model down for teaching these kids financial literacy.”

“We’re trying to prepare young people for a workplace that we don’t know what it’s going to look like in five, ten years. So, what we focus on as an organization… is teaching the generic-type skills: working in teams, conflict resolution, project-based learning,” Grenier said.

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