21 October 2009

Training 10-year-old CEOs and CFOs

Today I had the pleasure of working as a volunteer for Junior Achievement's JA BizTown. BizTown is a program where elementary-age children simulate the economy of city. In organizations such as City Hall, a bank, retail businesses, media, utilities, even a health insurer.  They worked in assigned (or elected) roles in each business, including CEOs, CFOs, sales, a mayor, and so forth.

To run a successful business, the kids need to apply for a business loan from the bank, and then earn enough money from customers during the day to pay back their loans. They have to learn to price their goods and services appropriately with this goal in mind -- too high, and the other kids won't buy from them with their limited paychecks; too low, they can't pay back their creditors.  The CFO keeps books on computers networked to the bank, with accounts payable and receivable functions and check-printing capabilities. There's even overhead like utilities, rent, and taxes. Those are just some of the elements in a complex economy. It's a very realistic simulation, and the children thoroughly enjoy it.

Junior Achievement of Central Ohio and the national organization deserve great accolades for bringing this experience to thousands of 5th graders. Education in entrepreneurship and business operations is sorely lacking from most school curricula in the US; this program is wonderful for the gap it fills. It's not just this program, of course; JA leads the world in promoting and educating in entrepreneurship among the youth.  It is not a cliché to say that this is where tomorrow's startups and business leaders come from.

I certainly wish I'd had this opportunity mumble-mumble years ago when I was 10. I encourage all readers to support JA and to consider volunteering or sponsoring entrepreneurial education. Central Ohio folks, Junior Achievement is located in a new building now: the repurposed Second Avenue Elementary School in Columbus's Italian Village. It's a beautiful neighborhood, and it's nice to see that the former school has found a use.

It was a great experience, and I'm glad to have helped in a small way to train the next generation of entrepreneurs and capitalists!