PHOENIX — The idea of starting a career, especially directly out of high school, can be a daunting task.
However, two Arizona groups are working throughout schools in the state to ensure that students are as prepared as possible when they enter the workforce.
“One of the things that we often hear when we're talking with our educators, partners, or even our volunteers, is that students are struggling a bit more to even connect the dots to the future,” said Anne Landers, the Vice President of Strategic impact of Junior Achievement of Arizona. “And that's what we do.”
Junior Achievement Arizona, a nonprofit organization, was created “to prepare students to succeed in work and life,” Landers said. “We give [students] the skills to be able to manage their money, to be able to thrive in their future careers, and to be able to think entrepreneurially.”
According to Landers, Junior Achievement Arizona pairs volunteers up with educators throughout the state to help students understand what job opportunities are available upon graduation.
“We're helping them get an idea of careers that they might not ever consider,” Landers said. “We're helping bring awareness, we're helping bring that readiness so that they can go on and secure those jobs, despite everything that they're facing now in the K-12 years.”
Though the pandemic altered the way volunteers worked with students, Junior Achievement Arizona adapted to meet students and educators on the virtual scale.
They offer a free resource library to parents and students, and have spearheaded JA Inspire, a virtual “Career Exploration fair” that allows students to chat with professionals in real-time so they can “chart that pathway for themselves for the future,” Landers said.
Similarly, ElevateEdAZ helps to bridge the gap between schools and employers by “creating systemic change in the education system,” Todd Sanders, the President, and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce said:
“We do this by partnering with our education partners to ensure that there is a curriculum that meets workforce needs so that when kids graduate, they're ready for either career or for college,” he said.
ElevateEdAZ is currently working with Mesa Public Schools and Phoenix Union, among others, to develop a curriculum that allows high school students to receive college credit for their classes so when students graduate, they're already equipped with a two-year degree.
On top of that, Sanders says ElevateEdAZ is working toward helping students obtain paying internships to help them understand what their dream job looks like in the real world.
“What we're trying to do is to work with them to give them a real sense, ‘Alright, this is what these jobs are all about.’ Now, sometimes they might say, ‘Well, that was my dream job. And I looked into it, maybe that's not for me.’ But other times… they're going to see that there are jobs out there they never dreamed of.”