The Community College Entrepreneurship Movement
Community colleges have received lots of attention recently. The Obama Administration defined community colleges as a strategic component in the country's quest toward economic recovery. The president requested significant funding from Congress for community colleges in 2009. While the administration's multi-billion dollar request was scaled back, significant funding will reach the halls of community colleges in 2011. This has put the spotlight on these educational institutions, their unique value in our economic picture, and the work of community college educators.
Community colleges have the potential to turn out a wide range of entrepreneurs. As a result of their unique missions, community colleges are openly accessible to anyone wishing to further their education; this includes many first-generation college goers, immigrants, those requiring remediation, those looking for less expensive alternatives for their first two years of higher education, or those engaged in a second or third career after multiple lay-offs. "Students” range in age from 18 to 80, with the average age being 29. Community colleges serve over one-half of all undergraduates in America.
At times the outside perception may be that community colleges offer talent only on the lower rungs of the ladder such as those needing extensive retraining or those who are candidates for remediation programs. While community colleges are uniquely positioned to provide the support students in these categories require, these schools are also hubs for sophisticated business activities. For example, at many community colleges, sizable graphic design firms, security companies, software companies, and investment firms, to name only a few, have been launched by students that have gone through the school's programs.
How does the entrepreneurship movement IMPACT education? NACCE envisions "democratizing entrepreneurship” through community colleges. Millions are turning toward entrepreneurship to take responsibility for their futures and the future of their communities. At some point, community college goers will either take an existing job, or create one. The overall idea behind our message is to expose and incite individuals to create their own jobs. In some instances "students” will be creating just their own job; however, many have the potential to create jobs for others as well.
At the community college level, these are the forms this takes:
- Self-employed (creating their own jobs)
- Freelance workers
- Contract workers
- Direct sellers
- Small businesses, replicable (creating a few jobs for others)
- Trades (Carpentry/Plumbing/Electricians) with teams
- "Main Street” businesses
- Growth companies, new ideas, innovative, scalable (creating many jobs for others)
- Exploiting new technologies
- Commercializing existing research
- Innovations on existing products
- Possibly venture-backed
Community college graduates, often with minimal resources, are creating companies in their communities and are contributing significantly to the economic vitality of their localities and the nation. Recognizing the critical role of community colleges in bringing people from where they are, to where they have the potential to be, NACCE understands, advocates, and serves the above mentioned forms of venture creation.
This movement in entrepreneurship has far-reaching impact on our educational approach, choices, and priorities; our approach to job creation; how we view our communities, our economy, our vitality as a nation and our global standing.
Five Action Steps at a Glance
- Develop Transparency of Community College and Community Assets
- Create Internal & External Teams Dedicated to Entrepreneurship
- Increase Entrepreneurs Engagement in Community Colleges
- Engage In Industry Cluster Development
- Create Buzz and Broad Exposure of your College's Commitment to Entrepreneurship
The objective of the Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge is to ensure that presidents and their community colleges are involved in the most profound discussion of the nation. It is imperative that their identities and roles are maximized by:
- Positively and clearly advocating the critical roles of community colleges in the entrepreneurial space
- Expanding the reach of each community college by partnering with organizations across industry sectors.
- Ensuring that community colleges are major players in the national/global entrepreneurship discussion.
The Role of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE)
NACCE is leading and serving entrepreneurship programs at community colleges around the country while developing strategies that will increase engagement from entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship supporters outside the community college world to ensure relevant activities relating to entrepreneurship within the colleges.
NACCE is elevating the discussion by bringing community colleges to the table with entrepreneurs and well-respected organizations such as Startup America, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Coleman Foundation to build on what already exists and to create new opportunities.
One priority for NACCE will be to elevate and highlight the community colleges sophistication and many unique business activities and entrepreneurship programs launched by its members. NACCE will celebrate the existence of entrepreneurship programs that are producing results for students and the communities in which they live, while also promoting and leveraging the great ideas coming from outside the community colleges.
NACCE's Commitment Vision
The importance of entrepreneurship and its role in our nation's future has never been clearer. We have suffered through a recession that nearly brought our national economy to its knees, and its aftereffects, including high unemployment, are forecasted to linger for years. The notion that new businesses started by entrepreneurs – as opposed to big business – will be the engine that pulls us out of these economic doldrums has caught hold at all levels of government and beyond.
In a study entitled "The Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Job Destruction,” issued in July 2010, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation presents strong evidence supporting the notion that entrepreneurship and the formation of new businesses is the key to a thriving economy. Using information in the Business Dynamics Statistics, a dataset compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, study author Tim Kane found that on average and for all but seven years between 1977 and 2005, existing firms shed 1 million jobs net per year. In other words, even though existing firms did create new jobs, in aggregate they cut more than they added. In contrast, in their first year, new firms (those in operation for less than one year) added an average of 3 million jobs to the economy annually.
If you agree, as NACCE does, that entrepreneurship is the way to help mend our economy and return prosperity to communities across the country, the question then becomes: What are the best ways to prepare Americans of all stripes to take on the role of entrepreneur?
We believe community colleges are ideally positioned to take the lead in furthering entrepreneurship based on their accessibility, strong ties to their local communities, affordability, and the diversity of their student base in terms of age and work experience. Moving beyond their traditional role of workforce development, community colleges can support local economic development by providing educational opportunities that give would-be entrepreneurs and the owners of existing small businesses the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
Ready to Commit?
Email NACCE President & CEO, Heather Van Sickle at email@example.com. When emailing, simply enter the subject line "Presidents Pledge Accepted". This will secure your place in the Pledge.Go back to the Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge page