A Publication of WTVP

What do you want to be when you grow up? You probably remember answering that question when you were little. A doctor? A teacher? A firefighter? In a 2009 Forbes poll of several hundred children ages five to 12, seven out of 33 five-year-olds said they wanted to be superheroes when they grew up. Princesses were second, and SpongeBob SquarePants was third.

The top two “real” jobs chosen were firefighters and police officers. However, there is a large disconnect today between the jobs children dream about and how much they know about them. Survey results released this year from Junior Achievement USA and the ING Foundation revealed that 35 percent of teenagers do not know anyone who works in their dream job and learned about their desired career through their school.

This highlights exactly how important it is to provide children with opportunities for career mentoring at school. Last year, Junior Achievement volunteers helped more than 14,800 central Illinois children become better prepared to achieve their goals and dreams, starting as early as kindergarten. JA inspires them to develop competitive skills and confidence, in addition to helping them learn about career choices. Their success bolsters the local workforce and contributes to economic growth.

Kindergartners learn about work and how money is earned in JA Ourselves, and by fifth grade, children are learning practical information in JA Our Nation, such as businesses’ need for individuals who can meet the demands of the job market. Students will learn that businesses need workers with skills that are in demand, such as STEM skills—science, technology, engineering and math—and they often get a chance to hear from people who actually work in these professions.

Middle grade students explore personal finance, education and career options based on their skills, interests and values in JA Economics for Success. At the high school level, programs like JA Job Shadow and JA Success Skills take economic education a step further by taking students out of the classroom and into the workplace for learning about careers, as well as what they need to know to find, get and keep a job.

Central Illinois five-year-olds may still want to be superheroes when they grow up, but hopefully this superhero will be the kind that inspires and motivates an entire classroom of children by being a JA volunteer when they grow up. As for me, I still want to be Wonder Woman. iBi