The number of young people leaving school early is alarming. They are inadequately prepared for the workplace or for handling their finances. Workforce preparedness and financial literacy are two key social issues of our time. Numerous studies point out that finding and keeping a quality workforce is the most pressing challenge for employers. This condition will continue to worsen in the next 15 years as 40 million American workers retire or become eligible to retire. Recent trends in consumer financial conditions are troubling. Household debt has risen appreciably in recent years and a record number of personal bankruptcies indicate that many people are experiencing significant financial distress. In a recent speech, retired Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan endorsed personal financial training for young people: “Children and teenagers should begin learning basic financial education as early as possible. Indeed, improving basic financial education in elementary and secondary schools can help prevent students from making poor decisions later, when they are young adults, which can take years to overcome.”
Founded in 1965 by local business leaders, Junior Achievement has expanded from one after school program, “The Company Program,” designed specifically for high school students to 23 programs for children in grades K-12 where programs are primarily conducted in the classroom by trained volunteers. Volunteers, predominantly recruited from the business community, educate and inspire young people to value free enterprise, business and economics to improve the quality of their lives. In addition, all Junior Achievement programs stress ethics in business and life, workforce preparedness and the importance of staying in school. This dynamic interaction between the volunteers and the students promotes active learning and brings theory to life
Since 1997 American Express has been providing volunteers to teach JA programs in schools throughout Guilford County. During the last three years the number of volunteers increased from 20 to 36. This year 31 employees have already volunteered for the fall program, therefore by the end of the 2006-2007 school year we expect to pass last year’s record.
At Junior Achievement volunteers are unpaid. In addition to classroom volunteers, one executive serves on the Junior Achievement Board of Directors and others serve on committees. American Express employees back up their volunteer support by donating to our Annual Appeal and participating in a major fundraising event- The National Bowl-a-thon. Last year 20 teams participated in this event, raising over $10,000 for JA programs. Finally for several years we have received funding from the American Express Foundation, we believe, because of their employees’ dedication and support of Junior Achievement.