Take kid to work

On the ride home from work last week, Stephanie Wolfe had to field a lot of questions about the financial services industry.

The executive vice-president and head of marketing at Horizons ETFs Management in Toronto was in the car with her daughter, Victoria, who had spent the day at Horizons and some of its partner firms learning about ETFs, financial planning and stock trading. And she was still processing it all.

“She had a ton of questions!” Wolfe said.

Victoria was one of thousands of Grade 9 students across Canada who took part in this year’s Take Our Kids to Work Day — a program designed to give students first-hand experience in the workplace.

Victoria and the other two Grade 9 girls who spent the day with the Horizons ETFs team got an overview of the industry, took part in a question-and-answer session with company executives, and got career tips at a resume-building workshop. Then it was off to see industry partners and spend time on the CIBC Capital Markets trading floor.

In addition to teaching financial literacy to young people and showcasing the industry, Wolfe said the day addresses the challenge of creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.

“I didn’t have access to this kind of a program when I was in Grade 9, to learn so early that this job could be for me, that I could have a career here,” she said. “It is very rewarding to see these girls have that opportunity.”

Since it was started nearly 30 years ago, Take Our Kids to Work Day has been embraced by many in the financial services industry, some of whom offered advice on how to make the day special for young participants.

Make it a showcase

Erin O’Connor, managing director and executive vice-president of HiFi, a marketing and communications company serving the financial services industry, said she was happy to play host to the teenagers that Horizons brought in.

She said it was an excellent opportunity to break down preconceptions and show that finance is about more than spreadsheets and investment products.

For the financial services companies, the opportunity is to hook the next generation of employees.

Mark Beckles, vice-president, social impact and innovation at RBC, said the day provides an opportunity to show young people the different types of jobs there are across the bank.

“Show them the unique or surprising parts of your business,” he suggested. “Remember to put yourself in the student’s shoes. Ask yourself, ‘What are things I can do that will help make the most of the day and capitalize on the students’ interests?’”

Keep it simple

Katrin Tosine, head of corporate communications at BMO Wealth, said it is best to assume this may be the participants’ first detailed exposure to the financial industry.

“Keep it simple and high level,” she said. “And find connections between what the organization does and the Grade 9 experience.”

Her group offered fun ice breakers, a combination of large and small group activities, panels that gave students a chance to learn about the industry and ask questions, and plenty of informal engagement with students throughout the day.

Learn from the students

Arlette Edmunds, chief human resources officer with AGF Investments Inc., said Grade 9 is an excellent time to make young people aware of the financial services industry, as well as the importance of money management.

“It allows them to think about the courses they want to take throughout high school and in their post-secondary studies,” she said.

She also suggested it might be a good time to take the pulse of the next generation of consumers.

“Tell your company’s story, but also take the time to learn from the students,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to hear directly from them about their needs, habits and preferences, which will help you better cater to them in the future.”