Research on the impact of the Junior Achievement Company Program (mini-company method)

Jarle Tømmerbakke, SOENT, Belgium and Norway

The JA Company Program (CP) has been in Europe for more than 50 years. Today it is the largest programme available to schools, with 320,000 students per year across more than 35 countries.

The CP experience ranges from approx. 75 contact hours to 200 in some countries—this is a combination of hours per week in school and after-school or in various informal learning opportunities (competitions, innovation camps, job shadow days etc). In several countries (Sweden, Norway, Belgium/Fl & Denmark rank highest in penetration rates), as many as 1 in 4 students have the opportunity to participate in CP. Over the last 20 years, we have seen papers, reports and research documenting the multiple impacts of this program, both among the alumni from the activities and immediate results connected to learning outcomes and motivation. 

  • The first attempt to understand the long term impact was carried out among 48 000 CP alumni in Sweden in 1996/97 and 20021.   These were students who had taken part in the program since 1980. They found interesting results regarding start-up activities among the alumni: the start-up rate was at that time 9.5 %, higher than the average start-up rate in the Swedish population. This proportion tended to rise with age. In the 29 year+ age group it rose to 19 %.
  • Similar results were obtained from a subsequent survey conducted by a research institute in Norway in 2002 and 2005.  9.7% of respondents who took part in the programme had established their own company after finishing upper secondary school, and 20.5% of the respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 had established their own company. The comparable rate at national level in Norway was calculated at 4.5%. The impact of these activities was confirmed by a survey (published in 2005), quantifying at 26.6% the start-up rate for alumni of the 29 years+ age group.
  • The researchers also found interesting positive reactions from teachers in both countries. Between 80 and 90% of teachers said they found it very positive to teach the CP and that they would recommend it to their colleagues. They also said it "makes the day more interesting for the students” and "it makes my day better", even if it is pedagogically demanding.
  • In 2007, researchers tested the impact they found in the Nordic countries across a wider geography and approached students and teachers in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Norway, Finland, Romania and the Slovak Republic. In this survey, they also controlled for several potential error margins such as family background and whether or not participation was mandatory, and the conclusions pointed in the same direction as in the Nordic surveys2. In addition, they found higher employment rates among the alumni.
  • In 2011, Eastern Norway Research Institute conducted a survey of entrepreneurship among persons aged 24-25 years. 600 former students were statistically picked from a pool of 30 000. The 600 were interviewed and compared with a control group of the same size and age, but consisting of former students who had not experienced the JA company program. The difference between the groups was reduced down to the fact that one had done the CP in school about 7 years previously, the other not. The study showed 50% more start-ups among former CP students than in a control group the same age. 12 % versus 8 % start-up rate. When respondents in the process of setting up their own business are included, the percentage increases to 17 percent among former CP students versus 13 percent in the control group. 33 % of former CP students are in a leadership position today compared with 25% in the control group. 55 % of the former CP students claim to have the necessary skills and knowledge to establish their own business if the opportunity arises, compared to 41 % in the control group. 46 % of the former CP students surveyed would like to set up their own business. The corresponding figure for the control group is 39%3.
  • In Sweden the result was much the same: CP increases the probability of an individual starting a firm later in life by at least 20 percent4. The older the respondent, the higher the percentage. CP Increases an individual's expected entrepreneurial income by between 7 and 12 percent. JA Sweden Alumni have a higher labor market establishment, are 12% less likely to be weakly established - with fewer days of unemployment - and are 20% less likely to be unemployed than the control group. 

POLICY EXPERIMENTATION Erasmus + “ICEE Project”: first ever 2-year multi-country field trial on the mini-company method. 

The Innovation Clusters for Entrepreneurship Education (ICEE) is a 3-year international research/policy experimentation project to evaluate the impact of entrepreneurship education by using the JA Company Programme (CP) at secondary level schools.  The main activity in the ICEE project is to carry out a 27-month field trial among students aged between 15 and 20 across five countries (Belgium/Flanders, Estonia, Finland, Italy and Latvia). In addition, the project examines National Plans, Assessment Tools, Teacher Training and Content. 

From the preliminary survey data we can see that those with medium/high activity (defined as 100 hours or more) scored higher in several areas than control groups. They appear to be better in “ability to coordinate activities”, “decision making skills”, “presentation skills” and “taking initiative” than students with lower levels of entrepreneurship education, independent of desirability and perceived feasibility for self-employment. We also find increased learning in such key competence areas as “oral communication”, “written communication”, “social competence”, “cultural awareness and expression”, and “civic competence”, as well as higher motivation for school and school effort.  This is valuable for preventing drop-outs and improving academic performance.

Both the teachers and the students in the survey point out that the students have gained considerable hands-on practical knowledge of starting and running a company, by actually establishing their own. This is concrete knowledge about the different phases of a business, from having an idea to producing, marketing and selling it. The students also mentioned that they now realised the passion, hard work and long hours required to bring an initial idea to fruition.

Respondents with more than 100 hours of activity in a mini company in school had significantly higher entrepreneurial intentions compared to those with little or no such activity. They also scored higher on questions related to the degree to which they felt attraction for entrepreneurship and personally able to establish a company. 

The data from the first year in the ICEE study also shows interesting indications regarding motivation for school, attendance and entrepreneurial intentions among women. The full report will be published in Estonia in November.  

Studies and reports from the United Kingdom5 and Canada6 underline the findings, and confirm the positive short and long-term impact of giving young people a practical entrepreneurship experience before leaving school. The 2015-16 Company Programme report from the UK shows the significant impact the programme has on the employability skills and attitudes of young people. This year, they used a control group to compare CP participants’ results with a similar group of young people who did not take part. Comparisons with a control group show persistent higher gains across all employability competencies – with communication, confidence and resilience displaying the highest gains.


Ung Företagsamhet , “What has happened afterwards ?”.  CMA - Centre Market Analysis AB.

2 Experiences from participation in JA-YE Company Programmes, Østlandsforskning 2007 / 2010

3 Entreprenørskap i utdanningen og oppnåelse av læringsmål, Østlandsforskning 2011

4 A Longitudinal Investigation of Junior Achievement (JA) Sweden Alumni and Their Entrepreneurial Careers, 1990-2007

5 Kingston University Business School produced an independent report about the effectiveness of Young Enterprise. It is based on surveys and interviews with 371 Young Enterprise alumni compared to a control group of people who did not participate in the programmes. Read 50 Years of Young Enterprise.

6 Making An Impact Assessing JA Canada’s Value Creation, The Boston Consulting Group

Category : impact research Posted : 24 May 2017 14:05 UTC
About the Author
Jarle Tømmerbakke, SOENT, Belgium and Norway

Jarle Tømmerbakke is involved in several international entrepreneurship education initiatives, mainly at the European level, designing digital teaching materials, supporting new JA organisations and involved in teacher training. He is also leading a project developing EE in Uganda.

Jarle Tømmerbakke worked within teaching both in secondary and vocational education before moving on as a pedagogical developer being responsible for developing curriculum, pedagogical frameworks and leadership training for headmasters. He established and worked as CEO of JA-YE Norway and developed it to be the main provider of entrepreneurship education in the country. During these years, he was in charge of developing programs for students within entrepreneurship. He also worked with the government in drafting national strategies for entrepreneurship education and initiated different research projects or reports on the impact of EE initiatives. He was a member of the former EU expert group on vocational training.

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