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Job Training Tackles Tough Economic Times
by Teaching Financial Literacy

Valley Glen - - During tough economic times, one topic seems to be on everyone’s mind: money. Conversations turn to how people can save, budget, and be more discerning with their money.

Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC) Job Training noticed this growing concern and in
November 2007, partnered with Junior Achievement of Southern California, the Local HUD Field Office, and Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles to tackle the issue of financial responsibility head on. Job Training received a grant from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to deliver financial literacy training to 300 individuals.

“Our hope is that through these classes, participants obtain the tools to handle their own financial issues, and that they rely less on predatory lending institutions,” Lynne Yonemoto, Job Training Program Specialist, said.

Job Training created the Financial Literacy program using the FDIC MoneySmart curriculum to cover a variety of topics to give the students basic financial knowledge to make better economic decisions. The 27-hour course includes instruction on family budgeting, credit, banking, investing, and predatory lending. After completing the core classes, the students choose an area of interest to focus on and complete a short specialized instruction on either home ownership or micro-enterprise and entrepreneurial skills.

The subject matter attracted a variety of people to the program. Participants ranged from the recently unemployed, to developmentally disabled adults, to individuals preparing for nursing careers, to retired men and women, to students who were the first in their family to attend college. “The one thing all of the students have in common is that they want to better their lives,” Yonemoto said. “They have a financial goal in mind and we want the class to help them reach that goal.” At this time, Job Training has delivered the course to 259 individuals.

Graduate, Natalie Ryan, said the course helped her strengthen her awareness of where she was spending unnecessarily. “Whenever I go shopping now, even when buying essentials, I always think ‘what would Sheldon [Financial Literacy instructor] say?’ He really helped me become more financially aware.”

Fellow classmate, Patricia Perez agreed, saying that learning how to set up budgeting spreadsheets, understanding her financial rating, and learning about investing helped her plan for the future. “Sheldon showed me that it’s more about the steps I take with my finances in the long run that will produce big results.”

The class culminates with a trip to Junior Achievement’s Finance Park of Southern California, where the students use their classroom knowledge and apply it to a “real world” day-in-the- life simulation. The park opened in Fall 2007 at the Mike Curb Learning Center on the Junior Achievement of Southern California campus and was created primarily for junior high and high school students. The HUD grant provided adults who graduated from the Financial Literacy program an avenue to go through the experience.

At the park, each student is assigned a unique life situation and given a mock gross annual salary. They start the activity by determining their net monthly income and then visit different store front locations to purchase housing, transportation, furnishings, food, and health care. Next, they use bank services, contribute to charities, and make investment decisions, all while staying within their budget. They get hands-on experience making choices and compromises while saving for the future and learning the importance of living within their means.

“Coming to financial park is the ultimate final act,” Sheldon Burgh, Job Training Instructor said. “To take the principles and the concepts that we talked about in the classroom and bring them to an actual practical application is a great opportunity for people to put into play the things that they’ve learned.”

“We hope the graduates will understand that they don’t need to be victims of their circumstances,” Yonemoto said. “They can get out of debt and take charge of their financial futures.”