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Junior Achievement – making a difference today to young people’s tomorrows

Insight Published on 12 July 2021

The end of June saw the culmination of the Isle of Man’s Junior Achievement 2020/2021 Company Programme with the Awards Dinner and what a year it has been!  

The programme, like most things in the past 12 months, has been heavily impacted by COVID.  Originally due to finish in March, due to the various lockdowns, it was extended to June - with the company judging day having to be rescheduled three times.

I was lucky enough to be part of the judging panel and got to hear first-hand the trials and tribulations and the highlights and successes, that the students have experienced during their Company Programme journey.

What is Junior Achievement?

Junior Achievement are an educational charity that helps our young people to develop skills for the workplace. It runs a number of programmes in the Island’s schools including the Company Programme.  This is where students, aged 16 to 19 usually in Year 12 (lower sixth form), set up and run their own company over the course of an academic year.  

They get involved in every aspect of running a business - from raising capital to coming up with a product or service idea and bringing it to market. They are also supported by a brilliant team of mentors from diverse business backgrounds who turn up week after week to help provide advice and encouragement. By coming together and working as a team the students learn all kinds of skills which will help them when it comes to entering the world of work – communication, self-confidence, planning and time management to name just a few.

At the end of the programme, the companies take part in a competition during which they have to give a presentation to an audience of over a hundred, set up their own trade stands and finally take part in a panel interview. Given the various lockdowns on the Island and the subsequent disruption to the school year, it was brilliant to see that all of the companies stuck with it and 21 companies took part in the final competition.  This was also a reflection of the great support provided by the JA team whose unending enthusiasm and encouragement kept them going through the tough times.

How I got involved with Junior Achievement 

My first encounter with the Company Programme was back in the 1980s when as a sixth former I signed up to be part of the company programme. The format was a bit different back then, and the scheme was known as Young Enterprise, but the core idea of running a company for a period of time and gaining valuable insights into the world of business and teamwork were the same. 

Although it was a very long time ago, I can still recall the horror, and subsequent exhaustion of my team, as 30 parents dropped off their six-year-olds one Saturday afternoon to be entertained for two hours by our “party service”. I’m not sure that idea would fly today but we survived and decided a change of business concept would be a good idea. We rapidly moving on to buying in soft toy kits and making them up into the finished products, we were elated when we negotiated a deal with a well-known local supermarket to buy our stock and sell them in the store – this time feeling a sense of pride and achievement at seeing our product on the supermarket shelves.

I gained so much from my Young Enterprise experience, that I was delighted to be able to play a small part in the Island’s Junior Achievement programme when I joined a judging panel in the early 2000s.  Over the years I have been both a company mentor and a judge and I have got an immense amount of pleasure at having direct involvement with our Island’s talented young people.  

I am always blown away by their creativity, enthusiasm and dedication and this year, more so than ever, their resilience.  The pandemic has taken its toll on our local community, but young people have had their lives impacted more than most.  They’ve missed out on opportunities, key milestones and rites of passage whilst having to cope with the uncertainty and anxiety created by a global pandemic.  It was inspiring talking to the students and discovering not only what new skills they had learnt through the Company Programme, but what they’d learnt about themselves in the process too.

How to get involved

Junior Achievement is run by a fantastic and dedicated team on the Isle of Man who go above and beyond to help ensure that our young people are as well prepared as they can be for transitioning from education to the world of work.  As a charity, in addition to running all these fantastic programmes, the Junior Achievement team must also raise over £300,000 every year to support all of this great work. This is no mean feat – especially in the current environment where many of the usual fund-raising activities have been impacted by lockdowns.  

The charity also depends on volunteers from the business and local community to help run its programmes, both the classroom-based sessions and the Company Programme.  PDMS is a big supporter of Junior Achievement and a number of our staff use our volunteer scheme to help out with the various programmes.  A big shout out in particular to Nick Collins, our Front End Developer, who plays an active role in Junior Achievement not only on the Island but also in Europe where he is currently the Vice President of the Junior Achievement Alumni Europe.

Junior Achievement is always on the lookout for new volunteers so if you’d like to use your business and life experience to help the island’s next generation – why not get in touch with the team (666266 or email [email protected]). It will be a hugely rewarding experience and I can guarantee that you won’t regret it!