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Interactive Program Addresses Youths' Work Readiness

By SHRM Online staff  9/3/2013
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Junior Achievement (JA) USA has launched JA Career Success, a free interactive work-readiness program aimed at closing the skills gap among high school youths and increasing their employability in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

“In addition to hard skills such as math and science, our young people also require 21st-century skills such as problem-solving and collaboration to be well-rounded professionals that get, and keep, jobs in high-growth industries,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and chief executive officer of Junior Achievement USA, in a news release. This program aims to address those unmet needs, he noted.

It “combines skills-building with technology to help students across the country access critical life and career needs” and enhance their education, said Michael Scimo, Accenture’s North American human capital and diversity lead, in the same release.

A JA position paper, “A Solution to the Workforce Skills Gap,” points to research that shows “a significant gap between the skills employers need and the skills of high school graduates.” It cited a 2006 in-depth study by the Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management in which 42 percent of more than 400 U.S. employers rated high school graduates’ overall preparation for entry-level jobs as deficient.

“The knowledge and skills demanded by many employers today for entry-level jobs are also at a higher level than the skills students are acquiring in postsecondary education,” the paper noted.

Corporate and community JA volunteers, through their own initiative or at a school’s request, teach the classroom-based program that is made up of seven 45-minute sessions, covering topics such as communication and conflict-management skills, recognizing decisions made in the workplace have consequences, collaboration with team members and ranking work environment priorities.

There is also an app for Android and iPad tablets, “JA Success Park,” that allows students to apply their knowledge in a game-based interaction. The app is free on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Junior Achievement expects its high school program to reach 85,000 students during its first year.

JA Career Success was underwritten by a $1.1 million grant from Accenture, whose Skills to Succeed program is aimed at equipping 500,000 people worldwide by 2015 with skills to land a job or build a business.

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SHRM Online Workforce Readiness Resource page

SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource page

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