How do young people really feel about their financial futures?

Empowering high school students to succeed in a shifting economy


JA Central Ontario launches its annual high school entrepreneurship program to support Ontario youth and address concerns about the future of finance and business.

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In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, JA Central Ontario has launched its 2020-2021 Virtual Company Program – an online, 18-week entrepreneurial experience for high school students.

Starting on November 16th 2020, over 900 students will work with expert mentors from the business world to create their very own online start-ups. In teams of 15-20 they will build and run a virtual business – using real money and real products in a real, and changing, economy.

The launch comes at a difficult time for students across the province, with COVID-19 impacting not only current schooling and work experience opportunities, but also their future finances and career prospects.

“The skills that Virtual Company Program teaches students have never been more valuable,” explains Jennifer Holmes-Weier, President and CEO at JA Central Ontario. “This unique program empowers students in grades 9 to 12, connecting them with from industry experts in a real-world setting and showing them what they are capable of. This invaluable experience teaches an entrepreneurial mindset, adaptability, creativity and self-efficacy – vital skills in today’s uncertain, changing economy.”


Company program students

This online program brings high school students together to build a business

Company program remote learning

Students learn key finance and business skills through virtual meetings

Addressing concerns and supporting students

In a recent survey, JA Central Ontario high school students echoed widespread concerns about the financial future facing youth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost 60% of our students agree that COVID-19 has affected their future financial goals and career plans. 28% are uncertain they will be financially successful in future, and 14% are scared of future prospects.


When asked what the world of work is like for young people, students gave mixed responses. 27% of respondents believe the future of work is uncertain, but 24% see this as a positive, noting the possibilities ahead of them.

These figures reflect more general research into both the future economic impact of the virus and its impact on young people.[1],[2] Businesses globally are predicting little improvement in the immediate future[3], and teachers are reporting widespread concern for the mental health and well-being of students in this time of turmoil.[4]

The launch of the 2020-21 Virtual Company Program is designed to support students as they tackle these concerns head on. The experience teaches practical financial and business skills, develops vital soft skills and offers hands-on, valuable work experience.

A proven format in a changing world

For over 100 years, Company Program has adapted and grown to teach students all about the real, relevant world of work. For the very first time, as a result of the pandemic and the overwhelming move online, the program has transformed from in-person meetings to a virtual experience – focusing on how to create and run a digital company.

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Advisors play a key role in student success

The program is supported by partners from across the business world. Partners generously give  their time and talent as volunteer Advisors, and they also contribute to the funding of the program – building a real-world start-up environment for students.

Practically, these Advisors teach how a start-up is created and run, as well as how various business functions interact and change overtime – including finance, marketing, sales and human resources. Even more significant, however, are the soft skills students build over the course of the program – from creative thinking and problem solving to communication skills, teamwork and risk management.

“JA has been one of the most rewarding programs I've ever participated in.” says one 2019-20 program graduate from Toronto. “It taught me networking skills, social skills, leadership skills, and more, in a friendly, relaxed environment – such an unforgettable experience!”

[1] https://www.caut.ca/sites/default/files/caut_poll_may_2020.pdf

[2] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-educators-worry-covid-era-is-irreparably-harming-students-future/

[3] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/covid-19-implications-for-business#

[4] https://vox.ctf-fce.ca/pandemic-research-study/


About JA Central Ontario

Through the delivery of hands-on, blended learning in entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness, JA Central Ontario empowers young people to grow their entrepreneurial ideas, hone their work skills, manage their earnings, and secure better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. Since 1968, schools in Central Ontario have relied on JA to prepare young people for success in an ever-changing global economy.

JA Central Ontario is a member of JA Canada and part of JA Worldwide, the world's largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating young people about business.