Province banks on BC company to deliver financial literacy lessons in Manitoba high school pilot

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The provincial government is banking on a new partnership with a BC-based company that will deliver virtual financial literacy programming to Manitoba classrooms next year.

Education and Early Childhood Learning Minister Wayne Ewasko announced Thursday the province has awarded a contract to Enriched Academy to pilot a suite of financial literacy courses for Manitoba students next school year.

Ewasko stressed teaching more financial skills in the kindergarten-to-Grade-12 system was “increasingly relevant” in light of “uncertain interest rates, inflation and supply chain issues,” according to a news release.

Kevin McCarthy, head of corporations and institutions with Enriched Academy, said the pilot will be focused on delivering virtual financial management course work for high school students meant to complement, not replace, the existing financial literacy curriculum.

“Parents want their kids to learn this, parents didn’t learn this themselves,” said McCarthy.

“You see these economic headwinds coming, this rising inflation, interest rates. People are realizing, ‘Oh geez, I really need to understand this… in a deeper sense than I did before.”

McCarthy said Enriched Academy materials will be used in personal finance, math and “life works” career courses and lessons that are already in the system to enhance learning.

One topic will be on the how-tos of budgeting. A video module will explain the importance of budgeting: why do you want to do it, how to track spending, how to set goals.

Students will be able to design a test budget toward certain savings goals, said McCarthy, and monitor their progress toward a particular goal, such as saving for post-secondary school tuition costs.

The Enriched Academy program also provides teachers with training and lesson plans to complement the virtual coursework.

He said the contract with Manitoba is for $100,000 for the 2023-24 school year, during which time they hope 1,500 students will benefit from the virtual financial literacy program.

McCarthy said in addition to aiding learning in the classroom, students will get lifetime access to Enriched Academy financial management resources. There will be live events and scholarships students can apply for, he said.

Though headquartered in Vancouver, the for-profit company has staff across Canada. It’s been in business for about a decade and provides programs for children and adults, as well as employees of corporations and unions.

He said the company has a contract with the National Police Federation to provide financial support and services to RCMP members and their families.

Enriched Academy also has active contracts with Alberta and PEI governments, and the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School, according to McCarthy.

Alberta Education paid Enriched Academy $900,000 and PEI Education paid $35,000 in financial literacy contracts with the company, according to the Office of the Lobbyist Registrar. McCarthy is a registered lobbyist on behalf of Enriched Academy, according to a registrar check.

He left a role with Scotiabank five years ago to join the company. Before that, he worked in government for several years, including as the chief of staff to former prime minister Stephen Harper’s finance minister Jim Flaherty.

McCarthy said an important pillar of Enriched Academy is that its programs are unbiased, independent and won’t ever include any branding or promotion for banks or insurance companies.

The Manitoba government does have a suite of its own in-house MoneySmart educational programs for financial literacy and scams, including two program guides for parents and instructors on youth money management.

Michael Huntinghawk teaches financial literacy to youth in Winnipeg’s core through SEED Winnipeg, a non-profit organization that provides financial supports and teachings to people in the community, including free courses.

Through the course he instructs, participants aged 15-30 learn about banking basics, money and asset management, credit and more. They also discuss the broader social side of spending.

“We do talk about how money can flow in and out of a community… how money can leave Canada or the city or the community,” he said. “And how can the community benefit from that money [staying] within the community.”

SEED generally operates outside of the education system, though Huntinghawk said he has youth financial literacy programming going on at Argyle School and has done sessions at Children of the Earth High School and RB Russell Vocational High School.

He said he was encouraged to hear the province is investing more into financial literacy programs for young people. It’s something he wished was taught in more depth when he was still in school.

He said he graduated high school in 2016 and said he learned very little about financial management in school.

“When I got out of high school, I didn’t know about banks, I just needed a bank account for my job, and I didn’t know what a credit card was or how it worked or getting your name on a lease form ,” he said. “I think it’s great for them to really get that knowledge before they’re transitioning from a different stage in their life so that they can be easily mentally prepared.”

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