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Should High Schools Have Entrepreneurship Programs?

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 6/10/2011

The uncertain job market environment and the proliferation of knowledge, has kindled an all round interest in entrepreneurship, and high school students are no exception. The exposure to entrepreneurship at high school levels however, remains inadequate to match demand.

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    Popular Demand

    Need for High School Entrepreneurship Programs The need for high school entrepreneurship programs finds voice in many popular surveys. A recent Young Entrepreneur Foundation survey disclosed that 90 percent of teachers and guidance counselors find their students interested in becoming entrepreneurs, but 75 percent of them say their students have no idea where to turn. Sixty-four percent of surveyed teachers and guidance counselors favored high school classes in entrepreneurship, as it would provide students with the basic knowledge of running a business. Another recent Gallup Poll shows that 69 percent of high school students want to start a business, but 84 percent of those surveyed report as having no preparation to do so.

    Entrepreneur education at high school level traditionally constituted a part of vocational education, which always catered to the employment needs of the local businesses. Over time, the focus of vocational training changed from preparing people for supervisory positions in nonprofessional occupations, to training people to serve agro and rural industries. Then to training people for jobs in industries and, more recently, preparing people for jobs in the information and service economy.

    At a local level, vocational centers would focus on providing competence to suit the workforce demands of any major industry that moved in to the area. By the 1980s, when the scope for employment in big factories started diminishing, and the potential of small businesses started to become apparent, vocational educators began to look at entrepreneurship education as a medium of human capital development. The state decided specific programs to offer.

    The exposure to entrepreneurship at the vocational curriculum level however, does not match demand, for a US Department of Commerce study shows that only 27 percent of students were able to take a class that taught this subject, when 85 percent of students surveyed wanted schools to teach more.

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    Mainstream Courses

    Many states now offer entrepreneurship education as a separate class; as a capstone-type option after completion of the vocational programs. Other states incorporate it as part of applied economics curriculum in high school economics education credits. The popularity and effectiveness of such initiatives remains limited, mainly because the choice to teach the subject at high school level still rests with each individual teacher, and most teachers are not competent to teach the subject. Most states conduct workshops to train teachers, but with limited effectiveness.

    The need of the hour is to offer entrepreneurship as a special course, to ensure students get orientation on all the required competencies early. The successes of many young people when starting their own business, highlights the benefits of acquiring required skills early. With familiarity at a young age, students get time to think about real business plans, before eventually starting out. The school may also serve as an incubator to test the effectiveness of the student’s business ambitions.

    Side by side, the concepts of entrepreneurship needs integration with the respective disciplines:

    • Including entrepreneurial concepts in the standard economics course makes the course more reflective of the real world and helps students comprehend and enjoy the course.
    • Include topics such as how entrepreneurs have helped determine the course of human events, their role under alternative political systems, the movement toward the free market in command societies, and more, to enliven history classes and make it more relevant to the times.
    • Business education courses prepare students to become good employees rather than employers. Include topics such as financial and human management skills necessary for the formation and survival of enterprises, and issues such as new product development, process development, financing operations, competency training and others that occur when developing a business plan, to rejuvenate the business management curriculum.

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    Programs

    Several agencies offer additional programs for high school students to satiate the need for high school entrepreneurship programs:

    • The National Federation of Independent Business' Young Entrepreneur Foundation, offers an online entrepreneur curriculum; including foundations of business theory, developing business ideas, the basics of running a business, financing a business, and an overview of governmental resources available. The online course is designed for two-and-a-half-weeks, and complements pre-existing lesson plans of business and marketing classes, and serves as a good foundation course for others looking to explore entrepreneurship as a career option.
    • Next Step Connections High school Entrepreneur program (HEP), offers an experiential and educational program at Donguha University for outstanding high school students. This program exposes students to key principles, teaches them leadership best practices, innovation, and exposes them to the business practices, culture, and etiquette in China. Such programs provide participants with valuable experience and a competitive edge over their peers in college preparedness.
    • JA Be Entrepreneurial, a new high school program provides interactive classroom activities that challenge students to start their own venture while still in high school.
    • The Youth Entrepreneur Partnership of Nelson Institute, in collaboration with the University of Nebraska CARI, McCook Community College, Perkins, and McCook National Bank, engages high school students in community and economic development by addressing key developmental aspects, such as awareness and education, mentoring and apprenticeship, business training, and leadership.

    The increasing focus and attention on entrepreneurship confirms the demand and need for offering the same to high school students. As the adage goes "Catch them early". Allowing interested students an opportunity to practice the concept, and the non-interested a chance to evaluate whether they have the required skills to consider it as a career option, goes a long way in developing the human capital of the nation.

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    References

    1. Ashmore, Catherine, M. "Entrepreneurship in Vocational Education." Retrieved June 08, 2011.
    2. Inc.com. "New Curriculum Focuses on High-School Entrepreneurs." Retrieved June 08, 2011
    3. Next Step. “Be an Entrepreneur in China." Retrieved June 08, 2011.
    4. JA Be Entrepreneurial. "Junior Achievement. High School Programs" Retrieved June 08, 2011.

    Image Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Ambro