Commonwealth Bank’s financial education program, Start Smart, kicked off in secondary schools in 2007 and was extended to primary schools in 2010. Start Smart Pathways, a complementary program for vocational students, was launched in 2012.
To date Pathways has reached more than 54,000 vocational and post-secondary students in TAFEs and registered training institutions in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. More than 2.5 million students had attended a Start Smart session by 30 June 2017.
Helping the small businesses of the future
TAFEs and other vocational education providers are terrific at teaching their students the technical skills that they need to make a valuable contribution to the workforce. But when it comes to financial matters like tax and superannuation many students enter the workforce with questions.
Pathways consists of six standalone modules that cover topics including saving, budgeting, loans, cash flow, tax and superannuation. Each hour-long module includes information on where students can get detailed explanations on things ranging from creating an ABN number to understanding their rights under industrial relations legislation. There is no formal accreditation or assessment.
Given a proportion of those students will eventually start a business of their own, it is also vital that they acquire commercial capabilities. Statistics from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that 79% of businesses that became insolvent in 2015/16 were small businesses with less than 20 employees.
In response we added two Small Business Skills workshops to Pathways in 2017. Aimed at trade-based third-year apprentices, topics include business planning, handling finance, tax and industry regulations, marketing and cash flow management, as well as managing and identifying opportunities for business growth.
Pathways courses are free and available to all students. The course content, modules and workshops are consistent with the Federal Government’s National Financial Literacy Strategy.
We also asked Our Watch, an organisation that aims to drive change in the culture, behaviours and imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children, to review the whole Start Smart program to ensure it was free of any gender bias. While that was the case, Our Watch made a number of recommendations, all of which we implemented to ensure Start Smart is best practice. For example Pathways workshops now discuss women and financial inequality and mention equal control and responsibility of money within relationships.
Active for more than 85 years
As part of our vision to secure and enhance the financial wellbeing of people, businesses and communities, we have a long standing commitment to supporting the financial capability of young Australians. Our education initiatives more broadly aim to teach and empower people and communities and prepare them for the workforce of the future.
In 2015 we made a 25-year commitment to investing in education and financial literacy, starting with a $50 million investment over three years. That builds on our 85-year old School Banking program and Start Smart which is the world’s largest in-school financial literacy program.
Pathways is one of the ways that we are helping to develop the businesses of tomorrow. That supports our own business and positively contributes to Australia’s economic success.