Achieving Engagement

A hands-on business forum gears up to host students from
across Canada and around the world

Photo: From left, Junior Achiever Susan Gou, Lawrence Kinlin School of Business chair Mary Pierce,
JA London & District president and CEO Bev Robinson and Achiever Maggie Gleed

THIS SUMMER, BUSINESS-ORIENTED students from around the world will have a unique opportunity to develop their business and leadership skills. JA (Junior Achievement) London & District is hosting the 2017 Next Generation Leaders (NGL) Forum, set for August 18 to 26.

With the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business at Fanshawe College signed on as a principal Forum sponsor for NGL, most of the conference sessions will be held at the school and the student delegates and volunteers will be staying at the Fanshawe College Residence and Conference Centre. Attendees will also be out and about the city throughout the week.

“It would be great if businesses and organizations put a message on their outdoor signs that week welcoming the JA Next Generation Leaders,” says Bev Robinson, president and CEO of JA London & District.

First established in the U.S. in 1919, JA has grown to become an international organization operating in 117 countries worldwide, with programming reaching more than 10 million students annually. “I think it’s amazing that when it was founded the focus was on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce readiness—and almost 100 years later, those are still relevant for our youth,” says Robinson.

For the past 47 years, JA Canada has been hosting an annual national conference that draws young leaders from around the world for a week of hands-on training, workshops and speakers, as well as networking and socializing. All of the delegates will have participated in JA’s Company Program, a hands-on entrepreneurial program for students in grades nine to 12.

“These are all strong leaders and top performers in their own communities,” explains Robinson, “and this is an opportunity for them to be surrounded by like-minded young people. Every year, JA London & District students return from the NGL Forum grateful for an experience they say is life-changing.”

Robinson is expecting 120 to 150 participants, roughly half male and half female, with 60 per cent coming from across Canada and the rest from as far away as Hong Kong, Norway, Denmark and Ireland.

“We will be building on the success of past NGL forums, but bringing our own London flavour to it,” says Karen Chafe, JA London & District senior program manager. Speakers will include some of London’s past 20 Under 40 recipients, who will look to inspire delegates and perhaps encourage them to consider starting their own businesses in the future. And one of the highlights of the week will be a pitch competition in which delegates, who will have been working on a group challenge project all week, will present their solutions to a panel of judges drawn from the local business and academic communities.

For all its history and transformational values, this year’s NGL Forum almost didn’t happen. “For many reasons, no [other city] was able to step up and host,” says Robinson, who was motivated to bring it to London following a meeting with fellow JA presidents from across Canada earlier this year.

With the ball rolling, Robinson reached out to Mary Pierce, chair of the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business at Fanshawe College and a long-time supporter of JA and the local Company Program. Pierce was able to secure the required meeting space and provide residence housing.

“Entrepreneurship is one of our focuses, and I’d heard a lot about how life-changing this conference has been,” says Pierce. “So when Bev shared with me this opportunity, it made sense to get the business school involved as a primary sponsor. Our faculty will be interacting with the students throughout the week.”

In March, Robinson appointed Chafe as conference director. Realizing the tight timeframe to organize an event of this size, Robinson and Chafe viewed it as an opportunity to apply the entrepreneurial can-do spirit that is encouraged in JA Company Program participants.

“We have strong JA community and local support, but we still need more businesses, organizations and individuals to invest in this conference,” says Robinson. “Those who are able to support the conference will be helping to develop future business leaders, community visionaries and entrepreneurs.”

To find out more about sponsorship opportunities for the 2017 NGL Forum, contact Melissa Derbyshire, development officer at JA London & District, mderbyshire@jalondon.org.  Kym Wolfe