The business academy scooped out of an ice cream company to melt youth unemployment

A lot of people start out by selling ice cream as their first job. But a business transitioning from ice cream sales to an online training academy to help unemployed and underemployed young people get jobs? Now that’s a waffle cone of an entirely different flavour indeed.

There’s no other way to put it: Ken Brophy has ambitious goals for Joy Business Academy (JBA). “We’re certainly looking to drive some change, and we absolutely think we can,” he explains. “When you look at New Zealand you’ve got about 65,000 youth unemployed, but about 200,000 under-employed.”

It’s those thousands upon thousands of young people unable to reach their full potential that Brophy and co-founder James Coddington are targeting with their new online business training academy, which had its soft launch on Monday.

JBA upskills young learners through online courses created as a result of asking local business leaders about their employment needs. It then matches the learners and job seekers with those businesses and others looking to recruit young talent or support them in their business ventures.

Coddington says the platform is innovative in its course offerings because of their real-world applications and need. “In contrast to other online learning providers, JBA’s courses are commissioned based on skills’ shortfalls identified by businesses and young people seeking employment. It’s essential that what we’re providing in terms of education is relevant to what employers are looking for, so our learners can take the next step to finding work.”

Ken Brophy.

Though it’s online, Coddington says a big part of JBA is also getting young people in contact with potential employers. “We will also provide the necessary training and connections to help enterprising young people turn business ideas into tangible opportunities,” he explains. “Part of this is getting them in front of the right people, including potential funders or investors, to source funding for their businesses.”

JBA’s goals can certainly be described as grandiose. With plans to help get 1000 young people into employment by March 2017, and 5000 people complete online courses,

But Brophy says it’s important to think big. “We’re taking on a massive societal issue because we’re excited about the potential to bring about positive change,” he says. “Whether it’s savvy high school leavers or skilled uni grads with hefty student loans who are struggling to get a foot in the door, our mission is to find these bright sparks and support them in kick starting a career. We also want to help people transition from existing employment into more fulfilling roles or careers.”

Launching JBA after first starting an ice cream company, known as Pride & Joy, might seem an odd move, but Brophy claims it has been an “end goal” all along, since Pride & Joy also focuses on social enterprise and providing opportunities for young people. “Normally we wouldn’t think ice cream and a business academy go together,” he says. “This is about connecting to real opportunities.”

Brophy and Coddington’s talk isn’t all bluster, either. Already, MediaWorks, Mitre 10, NZME, Hermitage Hotel, Jucy, LendMe, Mainfreight, Suncorp and Z Energy have gotten on board. By March next year, Brophy and Coddington they hope to have at least 50 companies involved with JBA.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal – or at least a very cool scoop for hungry Kiwis looking to freeze employment uncertainty.