Maxfield Park students learn business skills at JA BizTown

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Observer staff reporter hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 26, 2015

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MORE than 80 students from the Maxfield Park Primary School on Monday participated in a business simulation at JA BizTown, where they assumed the roles of employees, employers and customers of several businesses.


The BizTown, located at the Caenwood Centre in St Andrew, was established by Junior Achievement Jamaica (JAJ) to provide practical learning experience about the economy for grades five and six students.


At the venue, students are taught age-appropriate business, financial and workforce-readiness concepts that help them master school, make wise decisions in everyday transactions and prepare them for current and future responsibilities.


Alphie Mullings-Aiken, president of JAJ, said that students need a different way of learning and first-hand experience of what happens in the real world of work.


"It summarises for primary school students why they go to school and allows them to be in their parents shoes for a day. While they only come for a day, it takes a months to prepare them for the day," she said.


Mullings-Aiken said that the curriculum is designed to stimulate entrepreneurial skills and thought.


"Students are required to look at the pros and cons, examine the business for more than just the product. People underestimate that at grade five they (students) can't learn it quickly; but they can and if this is their new normal for learning, imagine what they'll do in GSAT," she said in reference to the Grade Six Achievement Test that is used to place them in secondary schools..


The programme is executed in two parts -- an in-class component which is followed by the business simulation. According to Mullings-Aiken, the businesses are models of actual companies and give participants an idea of what the operational processes of those companies entail.


Stores at JA BizTown include Caribbean Broilers (CB), Ernst & Young (EY), GB Energy (Texaco), Guardsman Limited, Global Directories, Grace Kennedy (First Global Bank and Jamaica International Insurance Company), Jamaica Public Service Company, Jamaica Yellow Pages, and LIME Jamaica.


"They can tell you how different things work in a company. How does electricity get produced, ...what's CB's process. It has also helped them develop an entrepreneurial spirit where they think how to make money in their business," she explained.


Mullings-Aiken said that total 12 schools have come to BizTown, while 127 schools have been trained in the four-week curriculum. Regarding expansion, she said though more than 10,000 students have been exposed to the programme, it will be expanded to Montego Bay to reach more children.


"We have this fever going and we just want to expand," she said.


She maintained that while the programme is booked out, all schools that are interested have to do is indicate an interest and provisions will be made for them.


"Just raise your hands. The material is already provided; just sign up," she urged.


"It is expected that, through this engagement, the students will develop a greater understanding of the world in which they live and be more aware of career options and how to become productive citizens of society," she added.


Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has lauded the efforts of JA BizTown and said his wish is to see it expanded.


"This is the best kind of teaching when it is applied and I hope we will see more number of schools benefiting from it," he said.


Meanwhile Joyce Williams, guardian to twins Keishian and Stephen Dixon who lost their mother when they were eight weeks old, also commended the programme noting that it had a "meaningful" impact on her grandchildren's life.


"It is a good initiative. I come here with them and volunteer and help them run their business. What Ja BizTown is doing is good for them; teaching them how to operate in a real work environment," she said.



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