The VE Junior Ventures Career Academy, an in-school program facilitated by middle school teachers, will immerse middle school students in hands-on entrepreneurial and work-based learning experiences. Starting in seventh grade, students will begin to build their applied technology skills, while as eighth-graders they'll create and run simulated companies that replicate the functions and demands of a real business. All students will receive business coaching from VEI's business partners, including employees from New York Life, as well as high school students participating in the program.
In addition to hands-on experience, the program will provide students with opportunities to develop skills in problem solving, decision-making, time management, public speaking, financial literacy, and teamwork. Rising eighth-graders also will participate in a Summer Business Leadership Camp hosted at a local college, where they will be introduced to the basic concepts of entrepreneurship, develop a concept paper for a new business, and pitch their business ideas to college faculty and mentors acting as "investors."
In addition to the New York City program scheduled to launch this year, the VE-JV academy will expand to at least two other cities in 2016.
"As we work to close the skills gap in the U.S. workforce through greater innovation in education, it's critical that our efforts begin from a young age," said VEI executive director Iris Blanc. "By and large, few opportunities are available to middle school students to engage in learning that connects with their future pathways in the workforce. VEI is proud to be partnering with the New York Life Foundation to take a major step forward in our efforts to address career readiness."