Educating Young Indonesians Through Prestasi Junior Indonesia

Jul 27, 2015 – Prestasi Junior Indonesia (PJI) is a part of the Junior Achievement Worldwide network. With visions such as belief in the boundless potential of young people as well as commitment to the principles of market based economics and entrepreneurship, PJI continues to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy by educating them in entrepreneurship, workforce readiness and financial literacy. NOW! Jakarta had a chance to reach out to Robert Gardiner, the Executive Director of Prestasi Junior Indonesia.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in rural New Zealand chasing cattle and a few sheep around the paddocks until I left the farm to study at Waikato University. I added a teaching certificate to my degree and headed off overseas. In London the teaching degree was not all that useful as my brother and I set up a company putting lofts and conservatories on houses, however it was a great experience learning to run a business.

After a few years doing this I returned home and began a teaching career for real. This eventually led me to teaching at JIS and after ten years teaching there, I set up Prestasi Junior Indonesia.

We are aware that your programmes focus on three pillars; entrepreneurship education, work readiness and financial literacy. Why those three?
These three are crucial for young people throughout the world, particularly in Indonesia. Our original level of implementation was at high school as we felt that students needed to be better prepared to achieve a sustainable livelihood after school. Therefore our emphasis was more on the development of entrepreneurship by encouraging students to set up and run their own businesses while they were at school.

We also continue to develop links between business and schools and mobilizing business volunteers to work with students and mentor their micro-enterprises. We now offer programmes for students in elementary, middle, and high schools as well as some Universities. Our scope has now broadened to provide specialized initiatives to improve work readiness and financial literacy amongst the nation’s young.

Do you assess students to fit certain programs?
We almost always coordinate our initiatives with corporations as this is where most of our support comes from. It is these corporations that frequently ascertain what level we work with and in what areas. The funding and volunteer support is then directed towards a student group in need and where the most impactful result can be made. Of course, we also need the support from local education authorities and, at times, they will direct us towards schools which they feel are in need or are appropriate for the operation of programmes.

Do you have any major upcoming projects?
We have several major initiatives this year which provide challenges for us as they are located in disparate regions. This involves a lot of travel and coordination between various stakeholders. Coming up in August is our Student Company of the Year competition – an event in which we select the best micro-enterprise to represent Indonesia at the Asia Pacific level.

How do you deal with the difficulty of lack of human resources in locations away from larger urban areas?
PJI is extremely fortunate in that, since its formation in 2006, we still have the same principal staff in Surabaya and Jakarta. These staff are able to train and monitor additional staff located in the regions. They often travel to the locations and are always in communication to support officers. In addition, we have several staff members who are alumni of the PJI high school programs and know very well about the procedures are processes involved. For example, our officer in Sanggata is a graduate of the student company program in 2000 and is quite familiar with her responsibilities.

Would you please share a success story of one of your students?
As we work on developing our Alumni Association the positive impact is becoming more and more obvious. We have recently met a student company Alumni from one of our programs in Malang.

We had lost contact with Widy Dinarty until she returned back to Indonesia and visited our office. She is now 27 years old and had travelled to 27 countries and clearly maintains that the PJI experience widened her horizons and prompted her to discover the world helping others. Her last employment was in South Africa where she was in charge of DHL’s CSR initiatives for sub-Saharan Africa and had worked with the disadvantaged in countries such as Uganda and Madagascar.

Any funny stories from working with students?
PJI frequently has volunteers from abroad engaged in our activities. One such volunteer was organized by Development Without Borders based in Paris and was from the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia. Ophelie volunteered for us over a period of several months and it was always hilarious to see the expression on students faces when she first arrived at school (sometimes on a very small motorcycle) and enter the classroom particularly in rural Java schools. She always got the students’ attention because she was 186cm tall!

PJI’s Latest Inspirational Project was the Jakarta Student Competition 2015.
Not every young Indonesians are able to define their career path very clearly. The majority of them only have the picture of working for big companies and to come up with other opportunities as an alternative career path is often unthinkable! The lack of anticipation to be taken in the future if things do not go as planned often results in unemployment. This might result in hindering the development of Indonesia’s human resources.

It is based on this concern that Prestasi Junior Indonesia together with support from Citibank Indonesia and PT. Permata Bank TBk carried out a programme named Student Company for approximately 6 months, involving 180 students from 9 vocational secondary schools in Jakarta and Bintaro; SMKN FARMASI DITKESAD, SMKN 8 JAKARTA, SMA 66 JAKARTA, SMKN 5 JAKARTA, SMKN 57 JAKARTA, SMKN 26 JAKARTA, SMKN BINA INFORMATIKA, SMKN 30 JAKARTA, SMKN 6 JAKARTA.

Students were equipped with knowledge and factual experience on entrepreneurship, starting from finding business ideas to liquidating companies. The students of each school formed a Student Company which competed on Jakarta Student Company Competition 2015. The best Student Company would then compete in National Competition in August and get the chance to participate in Junior Achievement Asia Pacific Student Company Competition.

SMKN 6 Jakarta and SMK Bina Informatika came out as the winners of the competition, SMKN 6 with their product called ‘Double S Shoe’ – shoes and sandal in one product and SMKN Bina Informatika with their Line Sticker, smartcase and games – Pixel SC). Both student companies will represent Jakarta at Indonesia Student Company Competition 2015 on 28-29 August 2015.

Article was first published in NOW! Jakarta July 2015 issue. Magazine is available at major bookstores.

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