On a recent episode of WNIT’s Economic Outlook, the topic of the current state of personal financial management and financial literacy was discussed. Clearly, a much too large percentage of our population lives beyond their means and lack the skills and tools to create and monitor a personal or business budget. In a consumer driven economy, it is critical that our citizens possess and utilize these skills. The latest recession should not be forgotten nor the vital role the consumer credit and spending played into that down turn.
As we continue our economic recovery, our local St Joseph and Elkhart Counties areas like many others look to encourage entrepreneurship to build our economy. Entrepreneurs create jobs, attract a better educated population and increase opportunities for our young work force. Business owners are consistently looking for skilled and well rounded employees. The challenge is to create and keep an educated work force full of young talent. Business models have changed dramatically in the past decade. Less desirable is the low skilled employee that performs only one task. More desirable is a cross-trained employee that can think and act like a business person. It all starts with education.
Across the country and in the St Joseph and Elkhart County there is one organization that with the mission of empowering young people to own their economic success. That organization is Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement provides an economic and entrepreneurship curriculum available to all K-12 schools that matches Indiana State education standards. Best of all the 4-6 week curriculum is taught by volunteers from the local business community. These programs give students deep understanding of our local and global economy, personal finance, business management and more. There is no program that can better prepare our young people and help build a successful local economy than JA. Key to the full success of the JA program is curriculum penetration in all grade levels and to all the schools. JA program penetration is only limited by funding and the volunteer base. Currently in St Joe and Elkhart County, JA is being presented to less than 10% of our school age students. As a community, we need to do better in order to see the economic effects a successful JA program can bring. It is in all our best interests that we make that happen and fulfill the vision of reaching 90% of our students and creating a Biz Town experiential learning center in our area. That vision will help provide us with an empowered graduate population and strong entrepreneurial workforce.