If New Jersey hopes to maintain its reputation for a highly skilled workforce, it must make career readiness an integral part of K-12 education and begin shrinking the dramatic gap between the skills employees have and those that employers need.
That was the message delivered jointly by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and Junior Achievement—New Jersey (JANJ) earlier today in a presentation before the NJ State School Board. NJBIA Associate Director Tyler Seville, JANJ President Catherine Milone and JANJ Training Specialist Christy Tighe showed how JA’s employability skills curriculum is a perfect example of what New Jersey needs.
“In today’s economy, businesses do not have the time to teach new employees basic skills they need in the workplace,” Seville said. “It has to begin well before students graduate high school. Our partnership with JANJ is a perfect example of how to teach business skills as part of, rather than in addition to, a student’s standard education.”
JANJ delivers K-12 financial education programs that empower young people to own their economic success, according to Milone. Over the last decade, JANJ has increased the number of students the program has reached by 230 percent – to more than 57,000 students in 2014.
“While JA’s curriculum remains relevant in our ever-changing global economy, it is the people who bring JA to life that make all the difference,” Milone said. “When companies open their doors to students who in many cases have never been exposed to a corporate environment and empower their employees to share their time and talents with our younger generations we are working towards a better future for us all and building strong sustainable communities.”
The JA program includes in-school and after-school programs focused on seven key content areas: business, citizenship, economics, entrepreneurship, ethics/character, financial literacy, and career development. An important component of their program is the JA Career Success Workshop—a statewide initiative that will connect high school students with role models from New Jersey businesses and industries, as they guide students through a series of interactive sessions that will help them develop valuable employability skills necessary to achieve success.
“As our member companies continue to bounce back from the Great Recession, they are ready to add to their workforce, so it is important to have a pool of entry level workers from which to draw,” explained Seville. “Junior Achievement is one of the best ways students can understand the skills they need for the world of work.”
Junior Achievement is also an excellent way to get businesses directly involved in students’ education. Many of JANJ’s programs bring business people into the classroom to show students how their lessons can be applied in the real world. JANJ and NJBIA said that greater participation by business in the education process would be essential for New Jersey to maintain its status as a well-educated state.
Seville said employers have continuously reported that they are unable to find job applicants with the right combination of technical and employability skills. According to NJBIA surveys, employers said:
- 74% said entry level employees had fair or poor time-management
- 73% had fair or poor written communications skills
- 70% had fair or poor critical thinking skills
- 69% had fair or poor self-motivation and initiative
View the full presentation.