JA BRIDGES GAP BETWEEN CLASSROOM AND WORKPLACE
By Amaka Abayomi
The recent economic crisis left in its trails high rate of unemployment and higher rate of job loss as a lot of people were relieved of their duties in organisations' bid to cut cost.
Thus, it has become imperative to equip the younger generation who are still in their formative years with entrepreneurial skills so that they would have a reliable source of income when their search for the elusive 'white collar job' fails.
In the forefront of equipping these youngsters with the entrepreneurial skills needed for survival is Mrs. Adekunbi Wuraola, Executive Director, Junior Achievement Nigeria, which specialises in teaching people within the age bracket of 5-27 entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy and workforce ethics.
Established in 1999, Junior Achievement (JA) builds the bridge between the classroom and the work place through its various modules that are taught to primary pupils, secondary school students, undergraduates and youth corps members to prepare them for the real world.
With 13 locations across the country, and with Coca-cola, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Accenture and Dangote Group as sponsors, JA, through its programmes, helps its students discover their potentials to know if they are career or business oriented.
According to Wuraola, 'JA is a franchise of JA International, as at last school year, 285,000 students benefitted from our programmes but we plan to increase the number by the end of the present school year.
'The students are grouped in classes of 30 and we may have as much as four classes per school, depending on the number of students participating, and a business volunteer and a teacher handle each class.'
JA's activities have been so accepted that parents even volunteer to teach the students.
'Since inception, we have worked with 700 schools and more than 350,000 students have benefited, though we hope to reach one million students in the next three years.
'The acceptance of our programmes has been amazing and we have had lots of parents who wished they had known of our programmes when their kids were still younger as it would have changed their mind-set earlier.
'One of our modules is financial discipline and a 5-year old JA kid can tell you the difference between his needs and wants so they can have control over their spending.
'Our company programme module groups secondary school students to form businesses, do their business plan, decide the names, shareholding structure, appoint directors and run the business. But we liquidate the companies after 4 months so that they can face their studies.
'Others modules include young enterprise programme for undergraduates and we have over 600 students from 20 institutions; the career with a purpose helps the students define their career or enterprise; be entrepreneurial teaches them what they need to succeed as entrepreneurs; while the venture enterprise and management programme are like mini master's programme we organise for youth corpers in partnership with the Enterprise Development Center of the Pan African University.
'We teach primary pupils the 4 Ps of marketing and there is this interesting testimony of a 5 year old boy whose mother is a petty trader at the bar beach. After one of the classes, he told his mother that she is not well positioned, that she should use neater nylon to tie things for people and give discounts to those that return empty bottles of kunu that she sells.
'The surprised mother did what he suggested and there was an increase in sales and this meant better standard of living for the boy.'
Despite the successes of JA Nigeria, they still face the challenges of limited fund, inadequate volunteers among others. 'There is so much to be done with the limited resources and if we don't have enough funds, that limits our outreach.
'Lack of adequate volunteers is another challenge because people want to know what it is in it for them before they agree to volunteer. But we will keep appealing to them to consider the lives of the kids they would be changing first.
'We also need more publicity as we need to get more people to know what we are doing and how they can benefit from it. Overcoming these major challenges would help in the journey to enriching the lives of these youngsters.'