Virtual Company Program FAQs
In consideration of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the continued uncertainty surrounding in-person gathering limits and access to public and private/corporate spaces, JA Central Ontario has made the decision to transition the JA Company Program to a fully virtual experience for this upcoming 2020/2021 school year. This will allow us to move forward with confidence that we can deliver a comprehensive Company Program experience without interruption or risk of cancelation.
Our goal for the JA Company Program remains unchanged: to engage high school students in an experiential learning opportunity where they can develop critical life skills and gain valuable knowledge and insight into entrepreneurship. Through the virtual JA Company Program, students will continue to have access to the success factors that have always been the foundation of the program including:
Experiential hands-on learning
Opportunity to collaborate
Opportunity to develop networking skills and network with JA community
Company Program events
PROGRAM STRUCTURE & BENEFITS TO THE NEW VIRTUAL MODEL
The overall structure of the JA Company Program will remain consistent to previous years with some changes to better support the virtual model:
How will student recruitment be handled if you are not allowed into the schools?
In a regular year, we focus our efforts to recruit in areas where there are programs (i.e. schools that can feed students to certain areas – downtown, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, etc.) Because we are no longer bound by location, we can extend our recruitment efforts to a wider area – which means the potential to engage students who would never have joined the program otherwise.
We will continue to be in contact with our school/teacher representatives and monitor the guidelines/recommendations from the school board and government to see if recruitment through in school presentations is possible.
In addition, we can also recruit through the following methods:
Virtual presentations – using a similar format to our in-person presentations, we would present virtually to classes where technology is available
Teacher presentations – providing a short ppt presentation or video with notes to teachers so that they can present to their classes
Promotion to SHSM specific schools
Social media campaign using targeted Instagram ads
Connecting with school boards and asking for their support in promoting the program
Sharing the opportunity to our full contacts database/network
Utilizing our Student Brand Ambassadors to share the opportunity within their schools and amongst their peers
Recruitment through our partners/sponsors
Sharing the opportunity with leaders of business clubs and other organizations
What type of students are recruited for CP?
Company Program is a well-rounded program where students from all areas of interests and skills can participate and benefit from. While many of our students do come from business related classes, we have recruited from other areas (including careers, arts, etc.) where possible and where there is interest from teachers within the schools.
Are you targeting students from the same schools you have worked with in the past? Or will you be targeting any students from under-resourced communities? If the latter, how will JA be supporting students who do not have access to internet / a laptop?
We will be recruiting from a multitude of schools and organizations in our territory which includes students in under-resourced communities. With a virtual model, students will have the opportunity to participate in programs outside of their community that they may not have otherwise been able to attend. This past spring school boards, as directed by the Ministry of Education, have been very proactive in ensuring students have access to technology required to support online learning. If there are students who are not able to join programs due to technology restrictions, we will work with the school to support them in providing them with the required resources.
Is there a particular reason that the number of students per team decreased to 10-20 through the new virtual model?
Encouraging and supporting student engagement in a virtual environment will be more manageable in smaller groups. While we will be scheduling regular meeting time for advisors to work with smaller groups of students in breakout sessions, we want every student to have the opportunity to contribute in the full group sessions. We also want to ensure programs all have an equitable number of students to support the program experience and tasks/roles. If student registration numbers exceed the number of available program spaces, we will increase student capacity in programs that can support larger groups.
While the 10 to 20 student group number is a decrease for some teams who normally see a higher number of students (programs in areas with lower access to programs tend to have higher number of students), this number is not unusual. In fact, many of our teams currently run with the same number of students. In other JA charters across Canada, this is a standard number for their CP teams.
With a later start date in November, how will we ensure that students who register stay engaged and not get pulled away by other extra-curriculars and priorities?
Our plan is to push the start date by two weeks, but we may consider an earlier start if recruitment and advisor preparation is able to move forward at our usual timeline. We do plan on hosting a virtual orientation that would take place before the start of the program so there may be ways to engage students even before the program starts.
What if we do not have enough volunteers who are interested and/or able to support a virtual Company Program?
We recognize that working remotely has created some challenges for volunteers and their available time outside of work hours to dedicate to volunteering. Our plan is to shorten the weekly full group meetings to 1 to 1.5 hours long plus some additional time for smaller group working sessions. Advising teams also have the option of scheduling their meetings between Friday to Sunday which was previously not an option. The suggested number of advisors per team is now between 5 to 10 and can be flexible depending on the team.
Volunteers can also be engaged from anywhere in the Central Ontario region without the restrictions of the geographical locations. We hope that these changes will support with volunteer recruitment by giving volunteers some flexibility in the timing of their weekly meetings as well as the opportunity to engage new volunteers that would not have previously been able to support the program because of the location requirements. As in previous years, we may also have community volunteers (volunteers not associated with any sponsors/partners) that would be available to support programs that may need additional support.
Can we engage volunteers from our other offices/markets across Canada?
This is an option, however, keep in mind that the students will all be from Central Ontario which means that the programs will run on Central Ontario time so any volunteers that work outside of this time zone must be available to volunteer at the assigned Central Ontario time(s).
In addition, interested volunteers from other offices/markets should be aware that there are other JA charters across Canada who also run Company Program. If these volunteers are interested in volunteering, they should first attempt to engage within their local community first, before joining the JA Central Ontario program.
Will volunteers need to complete a police check as in previous years?
Yes, a completed vulnerable sector screening/police check is still a requirement for participation in the program. Volunteers who already have a valid police check on file with JA Central Ontario will not be required to complete another check but any new volunteers or volunteers who have lapsed checks will be required to complete an online police check. The JA Company Program Manager will follow up with those volunteers when registration takes place to provide instructions.
PROGRAM LOCATIONS & MEETINGS
How will the programs be listed for registration compared to previous years?
There will be no physical locations listed for programs this year as our expectation will be that all programs run virtually. Therefore, programs will not be listed in their usual “Sponsor + Location + Date/Time” and will only be listed by their “Sponsor + Date/Time”. The advantage of this is that students will no longer be bound by the physical limitations of either program locations and/or where they are allowed/able to travel to. We anticipate that each program will have a wide array of high schools from across Central Ontario represented.
What if gathering restrictions are lifted in the New Year, will in-person meetings be allowed?
With the virtual model, students (and advisors) on any given team would be located anywhere in Central Ontario and it may not be feasible for regular in-person meetings to take place as not everyone will have access to the physical location.
What virtual meeting platform will teams use?
It will be the responsibility of the Lead Advisor(s) to coordinate and manage the platform available through the sponsor/host for the meetings. This will ensure that volunteers will have access to the meeting platform without any firewall/security issues.
If a team does not have access to a platform, then we would support the advisors in looking into alternative options.
Our advising team has never supported a digital product before. What additional resources will be available to support them?
We will encourage our Lead Advisors to recruit advisors with skill sets that will help support the digital product development. We are also planning on having a team of digital experts (ecommerce, coding, etc.) that are not attached to one team but can move around between teams to help support multiple teams throughout the year. We would also encourage advising teams to leverage the expertise available within their company/organization and their networks – including inviting virtual guest speakers during the year.
In addition, we plan to have an ideation workshop that will be available to all students and advisors which will take place early in the program (around week 2) and guide them through the ideation process for digital products. We will also include additional resources on our resource portal that teams can access and through our advisor training.
What are the guidelines for selecting a digital product?
We will be providing additional guidelines to teams regarding product/service selection. Companies will need to consider in-person production and in-person sales will not be viable with this model.
Recommendations would be to consider products/services that can produced virtually and be sold on an ecommerce platform. Some product/service options include:
Can you provide some specific examples of a ‘digital product or service’?
We have had several teams in the past who have developed a digital product or service. In 2019-2020, two of our Companies of the Year were digital products (Stackd and Illuminare).
A few examples of these products in 2019-2020 include:
Accesso: A website that provides in-depth reviews on how wheelchair accessible malls and stores are across the GTA.
Career Connect: A website that connects youth with valuable experiences, skills and knowledge ranging from academic to employment topics.
Humble: A design company that provides a personalized website for individuals and businesses.
Illuminare: Offers podcasts and webinars to educate high school students about potential career paths and ways to improve student life.
Lynx: A website that allows high school students to easily pair up with internships from a variety of fields.
Stackd: A website and events start-up that provides an inclusive environment for gamers to connect with others that share the same values.
To view the profiles for these companies, please check out our Yearbook.