Todd Sanders Junior AchievementYou’ve probably heard me say before that a strong workforce is a critical component to a strong economy. Our economic competitiveness as a region is tied directly to the strength and skill of our workforce, and business leaders, city officials and economic development organizations all realize it.

We at the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce constantly look for opportunities to provide real-world knowledge to better prepare today’s youth for tomorrow. As part of our public affairs efforts, our Workforce Readiness Committee works to enhance academic achievement and accountability, advocates for employment policies that encourage job creation and retention and supports educational institutions to create a stronger workforce.

Junior Achievement of Arizona realizes this important link as well, and our priorities align with theirs when it comes to initiatives that will prepare our future leaders and keep our economy vibrant. Since 1957, Junior Achievement has been educating our K-12 students about financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness while helping shape the college and career-readiness conversation. Seven years ago, they developed their signature program for high school students, JA You’re Hired!, to help them understand the important correlation between their education and their future success. More than 5,000 students have gone through the program since 2008.

Last Thursday, some 500 Valley students joined the more than 5,000 who have gone through the JA You’re Hired! program over the years. The competition pitted student teams against one another to see who had the best networking, interviewing and business skills. Hundreds of our top CEOs, political leaders and other professionals were also on hand to help the students learn how they can make a positive impact on their communities and our economy. Several of our members and friends – including former Board Chair David Bruno of DHR International, current Board of Directors member Russ Johnson of Merchants Information Solutions and Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein – also gave generously of their time to help make the event a success.

I was proud to be a part of the program and happy to get to meet some bright young people. I hope you will support their efforts. Visit www.jaaz.org to find out how. Together, we know that investing in our youth always pays the highest return.

Posted by Josh Coddington