“JA You’re Hired!” preps students for career success

Students gave their best efforts to impress as the pros narrowed the field.

For high school students, work and college is just around the corner. Does your child know how to create an online brand using Facebook or Twitter? Does he or she know the steps for starting a business? On Wednesday, 400 Valley teens competed in the third annual “JA You’re Hired! Challenge” to exhibit their knowledge in these and other areas and show that they have what it takes to stand out above the rest.

Junior Achievement of Arizona gathered students, teachers, and community business leaders at the Arizona Biltmore for a day of networking and preparing for the future.

The day was broken up into several different sessions as the sharply dressed high school students from around the area showed off job readiness skills they had learned from the “JA You’re Hired!” curriculum. The morning began with a Networking Challenge, where students worked on striking up conversations to find success in their careers.

“Helping young people develop the skills to successfully enter the work force and be able to own their own future and decide what their future is going to look like — I think it’s very powerful for all of our students,” said Joyce Richards, president of Junior Achievement Arizona.

In the following hour, all students participated in various Business Communications Sessions. In a very interesting challenge called Thinking on Your Feet, students were given the opportunity to learn the keys to creating a perfect “30 Second Commercial.” A panel of experts told students what it is people look for during first impressions.

Betty Ann Ritter, a business banker from Wells Fargo, was a member on this panel. “You have 30 seconds to make your first impression so you want to be confident, not only in your voice but your stance, your body, your voice,” said Ritter.

“My favorite part is just seeing the growth potential, the level of growth the students already have and just seeing the potential that they are capable of,” she added.

Students gather around tables with business professionals to show off their interviewing skills.

After hearing from the panel, students were given the chance to volunteer their 30 Second Commercials. Many of them were encouraged to watch their “uhs” and to make sure they use complete sentences, instead of creating run-ons with the word “and.”

Karishma Deshpande, a Hamilton High School student, is taking Business Management Technology through JA. I watched her compete in one of the Think on Your Feet challenges where she was presented with an ethical work dilemma and had to quickly come up with an answer that pleased the judges.

From left: Marcie Hendricks of Basha High School and Karishma Deshpande and Manar Ghannam of Hamilton High School wait outside of the interview challenge.

“You’re getting a lot of feedback,” said Karishma of what she described as the Miss America-type situation.

The next round was Interview Sessions, where participants competed to become the best interviewees. With about five or six students at a table, they were interviewed by business pros who then narrowed it down to the students they felt did the best job.

Many of these companies will be looking to hire summer interns. Karishma was extremely hopeful about being able to snatch one of these opportunities. “It shows that you did something right and also getting the experience is good. It’s always great to learn feedback,” she said.

The “JA You’re Hired!” curriculum is filled with information about job aptitude and competence, business networking, work readiness skills and entrepreneurship. A student may be great at reading or writing but if he or she can’t talk their way into a job, they could have a long, difficult road ahead.

“They’re developing those effective communication skills…starting to develop the confidence to strike up a conversation with a stranger, who may be the very individual who might be able to guide them toward a job opportunity,” says Richards. — Veronica Jones

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