Shreveport, LA – According to Adecco USA 92% of senior executives say American workers are not as skilled as they need to be, and 44% say they lack “soft skills.”

In an era concerned with the demands of the 21st century workplace, Junior Achievement of North Louisiana is making important strides to prepare students for their future careers.  Last week (November 30, 2016) the ballroom at the Shreveport Convention Center quickly filled with mentors and students eager to participate in Junior Achievement’s 6th annual JA Inspires.

Mentors from more than 70 businesses volunteered to work with the 250 students who attended the event.  Ten high schools participated in JA Inspires this year:  Huntington, Fair Park, Northwood, North Caddo, Captain Shreve, Green Oaks, Minden, Booker T. Washington, Plain Dealing, & Woodlawn.

The JA Inspires student and mentor lunch is a work initiative involving the JA Job Shadow curriculum, which prepares students for a visit to a professional work environment.  The curriculum teaches students how to research career opportunities and develop skills needed to land and keep their dream jobs.

The morning portion of JA Inspires began with the tour of a job site where students interacted with community leaders and gained valuable insights into a particular career field.  Students visited sites such as BRF, Bossier Parish Community College, Caddo Parish Courthouse & Sheriff’s Office, City of Shreveport Mayor’s Office, Metro Aviation, Inc., and Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.  One Caddo Parish teacher shared her opinion on the class site visit: “Today our trip was very enriching.  [My students] saw the dedication of law enforcement men and women in [their] service to the city.”

After students completed the morning site visit, buses transported them to the convention center to meet mentors for lunch.  Linda Biernacki, owner of Fire Tech Systems, was this year’s Honorary Chairwoman.  Biernacki is a successful business owner who graduated from a local vocational school.  Her background made her an inspirational mentor and speaker for JA students. The Honorable Mayor Ollie Tyler began the lunch with a rousing speech encouraging students to pursue their dreams.  She also praised Junior Achievement for the organization’s vital efforts to educate students in the areas of work-readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship, JA’s three pillars.

Throughout the lunch students worked side by side with mentors discussing important topics such as ethics in the workplace, wants versus needs, manners, and best interview practices.  Brian Crawford, Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Shreveport, led the discussions and shared his career experiences with the students.  After the event, JA mentors were asked what part of the program was most impactful for students.  One mentor felt the most impactful element of the program was the students “understanding the mentor’s backgrounds and how [they] got to where [they] are today, including the educations and work experiences of successful professionals in our local community.”  Keristen Holmes, news anchor at KTBS 3 First News, volunteered as a mentor for the event and shared that “the students seemed to enjoy hearing about life from our perspectives.  As young professionals, they gained a new sense of appreciation for getting an education.”

Furthermore, evaluations submitted at the end of the event showed 90% of the students who participated in JA Inspires this year had a more positive attitude towards school after the event, and 88% of students felt an increased motivation to learn.  92% of the students felt more aware of available career options and 87% felt more workforce ready or know how to better prepare for future careers.

According to Nita Cook, JA Executive Director, “this kind of inspiration is irreplaceable—Junior Achievement sparks students’ desire to learn and instills confidence. JA Inspires helps them understand that the time to prepare for success is now.”  Volunteering with JA is easy for you and life-changing for students! If you are interested in getting involved, call 318-861-5998, email programmanager@janla.org, or see www.janla.org for more information.