Some say that career planning can never start too soon. In Wisconsin, the state requires all school districts to implement comprehensive academic and career planning for students in grades 6-12. While this year marked the first year it was required, for many school districts early career exploration has been a standard part of the learning experience for some time.
One avenue many schools have taken is to involve their fifth and sixth grade students in Junior Achievement’s Biz Town experience. The JA Biz Town experience includes four weeks of classroom lessons combined with a field trip to the Biz Town facility. Students enter into the mini-city as employees of a business. Komatsu is one of the companies represented along with other notables such as Kohl’s, Harley-Davidson, U.S. Bank and Culver’s. The “town” is managed by City Hall and features a utilities company, newspaper and radio station-all run by the students.
This April, for the second year, Komatsu Mining Corp. employees volunteered at the JA Biz Town facility where they greeted over 100 fifth grade students from two local schools, including ten-year partner school, Mordgandale. The students came assigned to a role at one of the many businesses in the town. Whether the student was the CEO or a sales manager, each student learned about earning a paycheck, saving and spending. They also learned what it takes for a community to thrive.
The goals of the day emphasize teamwork and collaboration within each respective business, but also highlight how each business has an impact on how successful the society functions.
Factory Planner, Kyle Falkner, shared that he was surprised by “how interactive and intertwined the program was” and by “the number of students from two schools that had to work together as a community to complete their tasks. I hope the students took away a better idea of what it’s like to have a job, or career, and that it’s not all fun and games there is work to be done.”
Sr. Service Marketing Product Manager, Adam Kropp, expressed how important he thought volunteer opportunities like this are. “They are important for the volunteers because it exposes people to other people’s children in a work and school type environment. As someone without kids, it was an eye-opening experience to see the diverse groups of children and how there were similarities and differences. It is important for us to understand that not all children are given the same home or school situations as others. As a community, we can work together to improve our environment as a whole.”
For both Kyle and Adam, they were drawn to the volunteer opportunity because of past experiences with Junior Achievement.
“I volunteered for JA Biz Town because I had volunteered with JA in the past and thought it would be a good opportunity again. The other opportunity is always a fun day and I was interested to see what else JA provided the students” said Kyle.
Adam went on to share, “I was in JA in middle school and it was a fond memory I had. They came to our school, so it was not Biz Town, but it was still a great time. I also wanted to work with the youth and focus on areas that are extremely important to understand at a young age. The day was a great experience for the children and myself.”
Komatsu values the Biz Town experience as it helps students from throughout the state explore a wide variety of career opportunities. Students may be introduced to a career they never considered or they may gain a greater understanding of what it takes to be a successful leader. This early exploration helps foster a greater enthusiasm for the lessons that will lead a student to their career of choice in the future. Students develop a passion for their career of choice and ultimately become dedicated and enthusiastic members of the workforce.