Most of the students in Tom Grainger’s Business Education 10 class at Belmont secondary are staring intently at their computer monitors.
Entranced by the very fluid nature of business stock prices – every minute or so the figures change, based on trading in the various exchanges – the teams are watching for the right time to buy, or sell, as a way of boosting their portfolio. But this exercise requires a lot more than simple guesswork.
“We’ve been watching (tech company) San Disk. It jumped a lot today based on its quarterly earnings announcement,” says student Dylan Kaplan.
He matter-of-factly adds, however, that he wouldn’t invest in the company in the real world, based on their earnings history.
Learning how to research stocks is one aspect of the Investment Strategies Program, sponsored by Junior Achievement B.C. The non-profit’s online Stock Market Challenge sees pairs of students given $100,000 of simulated money to invest. They began with a four-day tutorial on the software, but have embarked on a 40-day challenge in which they monitor their portfolio and try to maximize profits, in competition with high school business students from B.C. and Alberta.
“Courses like this help to demystify the complex world of stocks and business,” says John Clarke, a Junior Achievement volunteer and commercial account manager with BMO Bank of Montreal in Langford. He’s been working with the students once a week to give tips on investing and keep them on track.
Grade 12 student Curtis Whittla, a peer tutor for this group, took the class two years ago and gained a serious interest in investing. Already accepted into the commerce program at the University of Victoria, he used knowledge gained through the Junior Achievement module to help launch his real-world investments.
Having already begun his investment strategy and worked extensively with the Junior Achievement simulator program, he should have a leg up on his younger classmates. Yet on this day he’s been overtaken for the class profit lead by one of the Grade 10 teams.
The results look promising so far, with the top team in the class adding more than $7,000 to their initial $100G.
Even Clarke, a 32-year veteran of the financial industry, likes what he sees.
“I was very encouraged that students were investing in stocks that they’ve done research on.”
Teammates Ryan Backhouse and Bryce Tickner, who were sitting third overall for B.C. and Alberta, had invested heavily into oil and gas, a commodity Backhouse says “is always in demand.”
The two admit, however, that investing can be a risky business.
“For everyone who makes money in the stock market, there’s someone who loses money,” Tickner says.
Luckily for this group, the money to be made or lost is imaginary.