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JA BizTown getting private sector support

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, June 03, 2014    

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A Junior Achievement Jamaica (JAJ) programme aimed at exposing primary school students to the world of work is receiving strong support from private sector firms that have committed to establishing replicas of their companies at a specially outfitted facility at Caenwood Centre in Kingston.

The Rotary Club of Kingston, which undertook the programme dubbed JA BizTown as its major project for the year, is set to raise $20 million to convert the building it has leased from the Ministry of Education to accommodate the storefront businesses which will begin operation in October.

Chairman of the JAJ board and president of Insurance Company of the West Indies Paul Lalor said the experience of selling Junior Achievement programmes to the private sector has not been difficult.

"The programme itself is so justifiable and people are very willing to contribute. Our problem is simply to get someone to come to a 7:30; breakfast, but once we get them there they are sold," he said.

Lalor was among the group of stakeholders who were addressing reporters and editors at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange held at the newspaper's head offices in Kingston, yesterday.

According to Lalor, they have sought to ensure the sustainability of JA BizTown through continued private sector support.

"The 11 storefronts are at a particular price, so once we have our 11 sponsors the need to market to the private sector will only be if someone drops out at the end of the three-year contract," he said.

President of the Rotary Club of Kingston and head of accounting firm Ernst & Young, Allison Peart, said her firm immediately donated US$50,000 to the process, and this shows their commitment to a programme aimed at changing the future of Jamaicans. Other donations have also been received from Jamaica Yellow Pages, which contributed US$25,000, as well as individual Rotarians, some of whom have donated upwards of $250,000 individually.

"In terms of sustainability, it is a win-win for anybody that takes a storefront, because every grade five student will know who you are,"

Peart explained.

She noted that, in addition to the private sector getting a marketing opportunity, what is more important is the educational experience for the students.

"The schools will pay nothing to come to this centre; so when the storefronts are rented it means the kids can come free. And, by running the facility and having it pay for itself, there will be no more going out and begging funds," Peart said.

She said there are other expressions of interest for the three-year contracts, however, she opted not to name the companies as some of them have not yet signed.

"Some of the persons who are giving us money to refurbish are also going to take on spaces, but I don't want to say until we sign," she told the Exchange.

President of JAJ Alphie Mullings-Aiken said five of the proposed 11 storefront operations have already been officially taken by private sector organisations.

"Each company that leases the storefront will outfit it with the branding, and the experience the students will participate in for the day will look like the company and represent what that experience will be," she explained.

She said that the two larger store fronts, which will house the bank and the food outlets, will be leased at a cost of $1.5 million per year, and the other nine will be going for $1.25 million each.

"This is what covers the full operation of BizTown and allows it to be free. There are curriculum kits that go into the classroom. There is training and everything else, and so that intake will cover the full cost of operation," she said, adding that other companies will have the opportunity of coming on board at the end of each three-year contract.

The companies who engage in the experience are expected to benefit from high visibility of their brand.

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