Broadening horizons for school students

Junior Achievement Ireland collaborates with industry and education partners to provide opportunities for students to develop the ability to think big, writes its chief executive, Helen Raftery

20th October, 2019
Helen Raftery, chief executive, Junior Achievement Ireland

I couldn’t have been prouder at the recent summit on entrepreneurship education for The Entrepreneurial School Awards (TESA) at One Microsoft Place in Dublin. Awarding TESA certification to 94 schools formally recognises the work being done by educators across the country to nurture essential skills and attitudes that young people will need to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

TESA certification gives schools the opportunity to benchmark against standards of excellence and attendees at the TESA Summit took full advantage of the chance to share best practice. TESA is a welcome opportunity to celebrate the incredible work of our partner schools and further emphasises that Junior Achievement (JA) activities complement the work of teachers. The TESA Summit was the culmination of lots of hard work by participating schools, the education team at Microsoft, our expert contributors, our evaluation panel and all the team at Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI) and those combined efforts made it a day to remember.

Indeed I’m fortunate to enjoy many memorable days with JAI as I see at first-hand the powerful impact on students when they learn by doing, getting to build confidence in their abilities as they explore their own strengths and interests.

JA was founded in the USA 100 years ago to help young people value their own skills and get ready for the world of work. That work continues to this day, with more than 465,000 JA volunteers around the world enabling more than ten million students in over 100 countries to acquire and practice entrepreneurial skills each year.

Here in Ireland, JAI partners with education and industry partners to promote work readiness, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and the value of studying Stem subjects. We use the experience of those already in the workforce to help students of all ages to fully understand the important role that education will play in shaping their futures.

Educators know the impact that business volunteers can have and that is why requests for JA programmes from primary and second-level schools has grown every year since we established in 1996. Demand now outstrips supply – last year requests for JA programmes for 12,000 students had to be declined as we did not have the resources to match those requests. More supporting organisations are needed to join our 170 industry partners so that we can complement the work of even more teachers and move closer to meeting demand from schools for JA activities.

Our approach to entrepreneurship education is based on our values – a belief in the boundless potential of young people; respect for the talents, creativity, perspectives of all individuals; a conviction as to the educational and motivational impact of relevant hands-on learning and belief in the power of partnership and collaboration.

And it is working – many of our volunteers were once students who were impacted by JA programmes facilitated by business volunteers from the world of work. They have an appetite to give back and help others understand the opportunities that are wide open to them, just as they once did. If you’re considering getting involved in educational skills-based volunteering, we’d love you to get in touch with us and help us to promote opportunities for students to acquire and practice the essential skills they need for their future success.

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