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Teaching Entrepreneurship, Changing Lives

April Hawkins, Assistant Vice President, MetLife Foundation

At the most basic level, the JA Company Programme aims to teach young people how to start and operate a real business. Anyone who has had the privilege of volunteering with the programme or speaking with participants knows that it accomplishes so much more. It changes students’ lives.

By providing them with unique, hands-on learning opportunities, teaching them entrepreneurial competencies and connecting them with caring, knowledgeable business volunteers, the programme helps puts them on a positive path for employment and economic success.

This is just one reason that the JA Company Programme is a valued component of the MetLife LifeChanger Initiative. Launched in 2014, the initiative partners MetLife offices throughout our Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region with local JA offices to deliver JA curricula to students who might otherwise lack access to financial education. The goal is to give young people the knowledge and skills they need to be financially stable. What began as a pilot in four European countries with 120 MetLife volunteers will expand to 19 countries across EMEA with some 900 MetLife associates expected to volunteer. In Cyprus, Greece, Poland and Turkey, LifeChanger volunteers mentor student companies and take part in local competitions for the JA Company Programme. We expect LifeChanger volunteers in additional markets to lend their time and expertise to the programme in the current school year.

This summer, MetLife Foundation added an exciting, new component to the MetLife LifeChanger Initiative: sponsorship of a MetLife LifeChanger Award at the annual JA Europe Company of the Year (COYC) Competition. I, along with colleagues from Poland and Turkey, served on the jury for the award, which recognized the student company that best demonstrated social impact in addition to strong financial performance and innovation. We had an extremely difficult task selecting just one award recipient from so many outstanding student companies. It was an honor to present the award and give well-deserved recognition to the student company from JA Ireland.

The overall COYC experience gave us a valuable opportunity to see firsthand the significant impact of the programme for students, their communities and consumers who gained access to innovative, high quality products. The young entrepreneurs we met were knowledgeable, articulate and, equally important, passionate. Most experienced setbacks over the course of the programme, but persevered, often emerging with stronger strategies, products and results. When asked if they would recommend the programme to a friend, all said yes without reservation. They noted that it was a unique and life-changing experience.

Whether the students ultimately become entrepreneurs or pursue other types of employment, I am confident that the JA Company Programme has equipped them with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to build a strong financial future. In short, it changed the current and future course of their lives.

Category : Business Volunteering, JA Europe Network, JA Worldwide Network, Entrepreneurship Education Posted : 10 September 2015 09:40 UTC
About the Author
April Hawkins, Assistant Vice President, MetLife Foundation

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