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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Investor Spotlight: Junior Achievement of San Diego County

February 24, 2015

Junior Achievement SDIf you’ve read our blog before, then this won’t be news to you: Across the globe, the classic recipe for economic development success has evolved. A high growth and innovative region, such as San Diego, no longer spends its days nipping at the heels of large corporations, hoping incentive packages will entice them to relocate its corporate headquarters to town. They know that the majority of growth will come from cultivating innovation and helping grow existing companies. These companies have many reasons for choosing San Diego, but one item usually trumps them all: the need for smart, highly-skilled workers.

Talent doesn’t just come to San Diego for then nice weather. It is also cultivated here: the region is home to some of the best universities and program in the world. However, if we want to ensure we have the workforce to compete in the global marketplace, we must engage students earlier.

Joanne Pastula is one person that gets this. As the president & CEO of Junior Achievement of San Diego County, she is working to make sure more than 53,000 K-12 students throughout San Diego have the entrepreneurial and business skills to get ahead in the real world.

This week, we sat down with her to learn more about how JA’s investment in students is paying dividends for our global growth plans.

1) Tell us about Junior Achievement.

Look at the young people around you. Do you think they’re ready to lead America’s Finest City? San Diego’s greatest resource is the next generation of young people.  It is our job to make sure they’re ready.

National surveys show nearly 60 percent of today’s teens don’t think they are ready to financially support themselves by the time they turn 24.  This lack of confidence is partially due to their apprehension about obtaining well-paying jobs.

To ensure the region’s continued growth and competitiveness, we need to cultivate tomorrow’s professional’s right here on our home turf. That is why Junior Achievement of San Diego works locally to impact 53,000 students in K-12 classrooms each year.  Our volunteer-based programs prepare kids for the real world by showing them how to get a job, start a business and how money works.

Why Junior Achievement thrives in San Diego

2)  What are some advantages to being located in San Diego?

Here in San Diego we have a lot to celebrate when it comes to our business environment and quality of life. Forbes recently named San Diego the No. 1 city in the United States to launch a small business in 2014. We also hold the distinction of being one of the top cities for STEM-related careers.  These distinctions give JA’s students access to some of the greatest minds and companies in the nation.  

A great example is our collaboration with AT&T. Through our JA Job Shadow program and the AT&T Aspire grant, we impacted hundreds of students from low-income families by giving them meaningful workplace experiences. Recently, students from The Monarch School and Hoover High spent a half-a-day touring the company’s technology, sales, data and retail centers to learn about career opportunities. This partnership teaches students how to look someone in the eye, shake their hand, as well as, gain the confidence to compete for a job in our global economy.

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.

We recently partnered with The Control Group (#TCG), the developers of InstantCheckmate.com and one of the fastest growing local startup tech companies, to teach students how to code.  The need for these high-tech skills is critical to the San Diego workforce. We are thankful to TCG for providing the opportunity to teach technological literacy.  

It highlights the wonderful work TCG does and how they are inspiring the next generation of STEM-focused career professionals.

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years? What do you anticipate for San Diego?

It is estimated 44 percent of millennials look at their phones more than six times an hour. We are embracing this by redeveloping curriculum onto a digital platform. Incorporating technology into student’s learning will help them make better connections, between what they learn in school, and how to apply it to the real world.

There is strong projected job growth in high-tech industries in San Diego. Despite high-demand in these fields, preparation is marginalized in our K-12 education system. We must change this. Moving forward, we must do more to help our students achieve their dream outside of the classroom by giving them meaningful workplace experiences. We invite you to help us prepare and inspire San Diego’s future leaders now and for years to come.


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