Inside Look at PwC’s Best Employee Engagement Program: Project Belize
By Sarah Ford on January 21, 2014
By Raz Godelnik
Two months ago I wrote here about IBM’s triple-benefit employee engagement programs. I thought it would be difficult to find a company with a similar program that provides substantial value for the company and truly benefits the community or people that the employees work with. Fortunately, I was wrong.
Meet Project Belize, PwC’s international development leadership program in Belize. Since 2008, the firm’s professionals at all levels, from interns to senior partners, travel to Belize City every year to host financial literacy camps, provide scholarships to students, train teachers and principals, and build educational playgrounds.
Throughout the years, Project Belize has become one of the most competitive programs within the firm: out of the thousands who apply, less than 400 are selected to participate. What makes Project Belize unique according to PwC is that it combines the firm’s business goals with social impact and it’s an international volunteer experience to boot.
To learn more about Project Belize I talked with Shannon Schuyler, Principal and Corporate Responsibility Leader at PwC. Here’s an edited version of my interview with her:
TriplePundit: Why did you choose Belize of all the countries in the area that could use some help?
Shannon Schuyler: When we originally looked at this about five years ago, we really wanted to have an international internship experience. We had to figure out where we could take interns that would be relatively easy to get to, English-speaking, safe and has the environment where we felt we could make a difference because it is relatively small.
Considering that 60 percent of the children in Belize don’t go to high school because of the cost, we saw a big issue with getting the children to the next level. Also, when you look at the local economy which tends to be driven by entrepreneurship they weren’t having enough influx of people who are savvy enough financially to be able to start their own businesses. And so we really felt that with all these things coming together Belize was a good place for us to be and to see if we can make an impact.
3p: What does the financial training you provide to the students and the teachers in Belize focus on?
SS: Our first program focused on teaching students what it means to be financial responsible and what it means to be an entrepreneur. So over the course of the days that we’re down there, some of what we teach them is about creating their own business, and encouraging them to think about where and how they’d spend extra funds if they became available. And so they get an idea of what their future could hold. Then we back up and talk how they can actually begin to earn and save money to be able to get to the point where they could start their own business.