While the job market nationally continues to show mixed results, high school students in the East Valley recently had the opportunity to learn how best to make a start in the business world at Junior Achievement’s annual “You’re Hired” event.
More than 400 students attended the March 31 event at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, according to event organizers. Throughout the year, about 700 students receive the JA curriculum in the Phoenix area.
“We really created this curriculum when the economy took a down turn in 2008,” said Joyce Richards, president of Junior Achievement Arizona. “We found that students were often competing with adults with 5 to 10 years experience for an entry level job. We were looking to give our high school students an edge.”
The mission of Junior Achievement — the organization’s Arizona headquarters is in Tempe — is to help transition students into reliable workers that have the skills to get and retain a job.
“It’s been really fun so far and the more people who can help us out in the future, the better,” said Aaron Guseman, a Gilbert High School senior. Gilbert was one of the 12 East Valley schools that participated, which include Basha, Campo Verde, Corona del Sol, Desert Vista, Hamilton, Highland, Marcos de Niza, Mountain Pointe, Mountain View, Perry and Skyline high school.
“We’ve been doing practice activities all week,” said Andrew Bustos, a Gilbert High School senior. “We actually did the 30 second interview.”
Throughout the day, students participated in competitions that tested their interview skills, networking capabilities, business planning and team work. In addition, they were given the opportunity to better improve their skills in those categories.
The “You’re Hired” event was the pet project for Melissa Leasher, the project development director, who sought to help businesses find qualified employees while also teaching teenagers how to succeed in the business world. “The main reason was we know we have some critical needs in the community,” Leasher said. “We have perfectly capable kids who are dropping out.”
One study, Leasher said, showed that many kids who dropped out wouldn’t have it they could have seen the long-term value and practical application of what they were learning in school.
At the same time, 42 percent of employers in a said in a study by Partnership for 21st Century Skills that they believed high school graduates today lacked the skills needed for an entry level position, Leasher said.
By creating a curriculum that gave students hands-on experience in the business world, it both helps students succeed, while also explaining the value of what they learn in school, Leasher said.
Hands-on experience often means making a great first impression, which is why students were required to dress as if for an interview.
“We want them to dress for success,” said Richards. “Some are dressed more casual, but we know that it’s a lot easier to learn to dress down than it is to dress up.”
After the event, students are encouraged to apply for summer internships through Junior Achievement.
“We want to make sure that they’re meaningful projects,” said Leasher.
One student interned with the University of Phoenix and in the end of the summer, was offered a part-time position with the company, she said.
“They called me at the end of the summer and said that they hadn’t made as much progress on the project as they had (when they had the student),” Leasher said. “They’re the kind of kids who are going to go far.”
Winners by East Valley high school:
Basha High School, Chandler Unified School District:
• Olivia Controneo, Best Dressed Professional
Campo Verde High School, Gilbert Public Schools:
• Jessica Dwyler, 3rd place, Thinking on Your Feet Challenge
Desert Vista High School, Tempe Union School District:
• Jasmine Coro, honorable mention, Interviewing Challenge
• Jasey Leinberger, 2nd place, Thinking on Your Feet Challenge
• Jing Liong, 1st place, Business Plan Challenge
• Courtney Van Zanten, 1st place, Networking Guru
Gilbert High School, Gilbert Public Schools:
• Annabelle Gilmore, 1st place, Resume/Cover Letter Contest
Hamilton High School, Chandler Unified School District
• Jacob Bello, 1st place, Networking Guru
• Tyler Delaney, 3rd place, Advanced Thinking on Your Feet Challenge
• Danielle Downing, 1st place, Thinking on Your Feet Challenge
• Tyler Reid, 2nd place, Interviewing Challenge
Highland High School, Gilbert Public Schools:
• Chelsea Fiala, 1st place, Advanced Thinking on Your Feet Challenge
• Nicholas Welthy, 2nd place, Business Plan Challenge
Mountain Pointe High School, Tempe Union School District:
• Winner of the Great Leadership Experiment
Mountain View High School, Mesa Public Schools:
• Sinjin Kirkpatrick, Best Dressed Professional
Perry High School, Chandler Unified School District:
• [team] 3rd place, Creative Marketing Challenge
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