Start of main content.
college students outdoors working

Industry Updates

Thinking Outside The Box to Build Talent Pipelines

Dr. Joylyn Darnell

Director of Strategic Partnerships, Kaplan

Junior Achievement is Demonstrating Different Ways to Inspire and Train Future Employees 

For years, employers had required college degrees for many open jobs. Then, in the early 2010s, there began a shift; employers removed “unnecessary” degree requirements as certificates and industry-recognized credentials became more commonplace.

Today, another shift is happening. A tight hiring market, plus historically low unemployment and a desire for more diverse applicants, are pushing employers towards skills-based hiring. Research from SHRM showed more than half of employers are using pre-hire assessments of skills and knowledge and 79% say skills assessments are just as or more important than other hiring criteria.

Now the challenge is finding workers with the skills that companies need. And a nonprofit founded in the last century is innovating solutions for this century.

Junior Achievement helps elementary and high school students and young adults, up through age 25, make more informed decisions about their futures. Through job shadowing and internship programs as well as career fairs and networking events—all led by JA volunteers from the local business community—young people explore career options and learn workplace skills. These JA programs are demonstrating how to successfully build longer, broader, and earlier-starting talent pipelines. 

“By investing in young people’s futures, Junior Achievement helps bridge the gap between workers and employers,” says Holly Garner, Junior Achievement's Head of Workforce and Vice President of New Channels.

Here are several Junior Achievement-led programs that can serve as models and inspirations for employers.

A six-month program to jumpstart the careers of “middle-skill” workers

South Florida is home to a vibrant boating industry that employs about 149,000 workers. These include marine technicians who inspect, maintain, and repair all types of boats—keeping them, and the industry, afloat. The challenge is that 61% of marine technicians are over the age of 40 and only 18% are 20-30 years old.  As older technicians retire, the local marine industry could suffer if more younger people are not brought into this career. 

Junior Achievement of South Florida’s Pre-Apprenticeship Program provides a six-month, work-based learning experience to fast-track the careers of young South Florida workers into marine industry jobs that require some technical training after high school but not a college degree. The program is supported by a wide variety of organizations, including boat makers and the Florida Department of Education. The program includes hands-on experience in areas like engine fundamentals, fuel and electrical systems, customer service skills and welding, plus job shadowing with leading companies in the marine industry and career readiness skills like resume building and interview techniques. 

 “An important thing about the Pre-Apprenticeship Program is that it supports human skills (soft skills like communication and collaboration), technical skills (both general content specific) and business enabler skills (presentation and writing.),” JA’s Holly Garner says.

A credential program that gives job seekers in the financial industry a big advantage

There’s a pronounced need for entry-level workers in the finance sector. This is a huge opportunity for a new generation of employees—especially those with alternate job backgrounds and from underrepresented communities—to enter a well-paying career path; salaries for client-facing positions, for example, can average over $50,000.

Junior Achievement, in partnership with Kaplan, offers the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) credential program to young adults with a desire to enter financial services. The SIE Exam is a key industry qualification test that demonstrates participants’ commitment to learning new skills, as well as mastery of an important body of knowledge and gives them a significant advantage in the job market.

The Junior Achievement program is supported by a Kaplan instructors, local JA area staff, and JA volunteers. Participating employers benefit by getting access to local, work-ready job candidates, reduced recruiting and retention costs, and lower in-house training costs.

A program to build awareness of career possibilities in younger students

Young people seeking career ideas are often advised to “follow their passion.” But what if their potential passion is an area they haven’t been exposed to yet? According to Gallup, many U.S. students give their schools a middling grade (C+) on how well they educate them about career options. And three-fourths of high school graduates say they were moderately, slightly or not at all prepared to make college or career decisions after graduation.

JA Trades, an initiative from Junior Achievement of Greater St. Louis, aims to help young people “find that passion” by giving middle-school students day-long, immersive experiences where they learn about a variety of trades. During the day, students rotate through stations that give them hands-on experience with electrical and mechanical tasks, carpentry, construction, plumbing and heavy equipment operation. They also take a personality assessment to begin to identify career paths that align with their unique interests. At the end of the day, they’re given virtual reality glasses that allow them to hear from workers and see them performing on the job.

Another JA tool, Access Your Future, lets young adults explore hundreds of careers, see what levels of education are required, and then calculate the cost of education. Users can then adjust the level of money they and their parents may contribute, combined with student loans they may need to secure. At the end of the exercise, a Return on Investment (ROI) score helps young adults understand the costs and possible benefits of different career choices.

Preparing through exploration, as well as access to up-to-date information, allows JA to support students and educate them about career options. Employers can help develop the talent they need by sponsoring or becoming directly involved in initiatives like the above Junior Achievement programs. They can also draw inspiration from these programs to create similar opportunities for their employees—and employees of the future.

Joylyn Darnell is the director of strategic partnerships on the corporate learning solutions team at Kaplan North America. Connect with Joylyn to discuss Kaplan’s work with Junior Achievement and clients to create new pathways to meaningful careers.