The Importance of Filling Our Community Pipelines with a Financially Literate Workforce
What skill set is essential to ensuring our communities remain vibrant and thriving, and that our employers have a sufficient pipeline of qualified workforce talent to fill quality jobs? Financial literacy.
It’s back-to-school season. In the days ahead, tens of thousands of young people across our community will be headed back to classrooms, study halls, activity rooms, gyms, and sports fields for another school year. But one day, these same students will be young adults, walking into offices, stores, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities, etc., as the next generation of workers, innovators, and leaders.
While many will be prepared in a scholastic sense, will they be fully versed in life’s essential lessons that schools don’t always teach? What will complete the circle of a well-rounded education? What skill set is essential to ensuring our communities remain vibrant and thriving, and that our employers have a sufficient pipeline of qualified workforce talent to fill quality jobs? Financial literacy.
A recent article in TheStreet noted that the “main problem and contributor to financial illiteracy among teens is that not enough financial literacy classes address teens, and those that are in place are less than fully effective.”
The question then becomes…where can we direct students to find this critical education in fiscal responsibility and financial health?
Colorado is fortunate to have community-focused organizations like Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain, Inc. (JA) and the Independent Bankers of Colorado (IBC). Both provide and sponsor programs that support our communities’ next generation of a financially literate workforce.
JA’s highly effective financial literacy program, JA Finance Park, challenges teenagers to juggle adult financial responsibilities through a reality-based budgeting simulation. During this immersive program, youth learn how hard it is for individuals and families to live within their means when considering the increasing cost of housing, transportation, food, health insurance, and technology, etc.
Additionally, the Daniels Fund JA Dream Accelerator, which will give high school students the opportunity to participate in an interactive and personalized career exploration journey – motivating them to develop a plan to pursue a meaningful career tailored to their unique interests and aptitudes, will be coming soon to JA.
The positive long-term impact of JA’s programs was reaffirmed in a recent 2022 survey of 1,003 JA alumni. Results showed that 68% of JA alumni report they are financially independent from their parents compared to 34% of their peers, and 68% say they are saving for retirement compared to 40% of their peers.
This is good news for organizations like IBC, which is the exclusive voice for 55 community banks across the state – in many of the same communities where JA is actively engaging – to enhance their profitability, advocate for common legislative and regulatory goals, and provide a forum to build relationships and share ideas. Community banks provide an economic lifeline to Colorado communities and are assets that invest in the future of their residents.
IBC members recognize that the long-term viability and success of their communities, many of which are rural and agricultural, are reliant on the economic education of their residents. That’s why IBC recently supported legislation to bring financial literacy programs into high schools, backed the creation of the Office of Financial Empowerment to improve access to financing education and resources for lower-income households and actively promotes the FDIC’s #GetBanked program, an informational resource to help individuals and families open and maintain a bank account as a first step towards financial well-being. IBC also annually grants scholarships to local students to further their education, and many IBC members offer internship programs.
The significant value provided to our communities by these financial literacy programs cannot be overstated. Many of these community banks will likely be the future employers of JA’s financially literate students. And these students will likely be the future business leaders of those communities, continuing to fill their pipelines with a financially literate workforce.
Robin Wise is the President & CEO of Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain and Mike Van Norstrand is the Executive Director of the Independent Bankers of Colorado.