Entrepreneursand small businesses create the jobs where most Americans work, and where an increasing number of young people see their future. St. Petersburg College is expanding its entrepreneurship efforts by offering programs and services to different audiences. We are very excited about the promise and the opportunity to support and serve our community’s economic growth.
St. Petersburg College (SPC), located in St. Petersburg FL, was the first among Florida’s 28 public community colleges to transition to a four-year institution. In August 2002, SPC began offering fully accredited baccalaureate programs leading to bachelor’s degrees. However, SPC’s commitment to its two-year curriculum and program remains as strong as ever.
The goal of the entrepreneurship program at SPC is to provide entrepreneurial business fundamentals needed for success in starting a business. The program will have components that help students generate and sharpen their entrepreneurial/intrapreneural mind set, idea generation, analysis, opportunity recognition, value creation and management of a venture using communication, marketing, sales and financial skills.
Although SPC has experienced growing success in its existing entrepreneurship offerings, recently SPC has launched an initiative to extend entrepreneurship education to support potential entrepreneurs through degree and certificate programs, as well as by offering services through an Entrepreneurship Center. Building on the work underway in SPC’s Corporate Training’s Practical Entrepreneurship Academy and the entrepreneurship sub-plan within the bachelor’s degree program, SPC will create a new associate-degree-level entrepreneurship degree option. Thus the entrepreneurship model will encompass all facets of entrepreneurship education: credit/non credit courses to provide "on demand” training, certificates, a two-year A.S. degree, and the four-year B.A.S. degree with the Entrepreneurship Center at its core (see fig 1).
The Process: Focus on Pragmatic Education
At SPC we used a formal process to develop curriculum for training students for entrepreneurship ventures and intrapreneural thinking while working in large organizations. We collected data on students’ interest and conducted a needs analysis by surveying the industries in Tampa Bay. This was followed by a formal DACUM (Designing a Curriculum) session attended by key "potential” employers of graduating students. The outcome of this session is a list of traits, attitudes and skills needed for the degree. These are carefully populated in both core and elective courses for the program, thus providing students with the knowledge needed to succeed in the field. This process has helped in designing other programs and keeping a pragmatic focus.
"On Demand” Corporate Training
In December 2006, an entrepreneur approached SPC about the need to offer a practical, mentor-based program for new local businesses and potential businesses to get the assistance they needed to succeed. With a gift of $25,000 (that was matched by the State) SPC launched the Practical Entrepreneurship Academy–a 16-week, non-credit program designed to be offered as credit or non-credit courses in future programs.
Additionally, Corporate Training at SPC hosts numerous six-week classes under Business Solutions: Entrepreneurship/Small Business. These courses are designed for specific entrepreneurial venues such as: how to start and operate your own publishing business, catering service, consulting practice, interior design, and arts and crafts. Also offered by Business Solutions are foundational courses in creating a business plan, Internet business writing, marketing, and business law.
Associate Degree Program and Certification Options
In 2009, a study was conducted to review best practices in entrepreneurship education among community colleges to determine where SPC might better serve the Pinellas County community. The study found that SPC could play a pivotal role at the associate degree level to provide an integrated package of education coordinating with the program offered in Corporate Training, and the existing entrepreneurship sub-plan offered at the four-year level.
In developing the curriculum to support the entrepreneurship model, it was decided to focus on a four-course certificate–an industry-driven model of 12 credits that could be offered as a sub-plan to the A.S. Business Administration degree, which in turn could articulate with the College’s bachelor’s degree offerings. This decision was based on the fact that a college credit certificate consists of a program of instruction of college-level courses that is a part of an A.S. degree program that prepares students for entry into employment. This decision was based also on the fact that the business degree provides the foundation to give students skills in management, marketing and finance as the four courses are expected to focus on practical skills and engagement with experts in their respective fields. This will be accomplished using simulations, group work and other media-based and electronic tools to appeal to the "entrepreneurial personality.”
The courses in the Entrepreneurship certificate program will include: "Introduction to Entrepreneurship” (to focus the business idea and examine the various components of starting and running a business); "Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing” (to address topics ranging from advertising options to new social media);"Entrepreneurial Management” (to address topics such as taxes, bookkeeping, legal issues, etc.); and "Planning the Entrepreneurial Venture” (culminating in a complete business plan).
In addition to being part of the business associate degree, it is anticipated that the courses, individually or as part of a certificate, will be valued additions to the other A.S. degree programs, thereby providing students in programs such as photography, digital arts, hospitality, insurance, financial services, computer programming and music with the skills to start their own businesses.
BAS-Entrepreneurship Sub-plan in Management & Organizational Leadership
The Entrepreneurship specialization has been offered as a sub-plan in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Management and Organizational Leadership degree for the last two years. This program has been expanded. It now consists of four three-credit-hour courses: Principles of Entrepreneurship; Innovation & Value Creation; Sales, Negotiation & Relationship Management; and Entrepreneurial Finance. The sub-plan also includes a three-credit-hour senior capstone course that makes use of skills learned in the courses in planning and early execution of a business. The program offers hands-on entrepreneurship incubator experience and contact with entrepreneurs and successful businesses by hosting a series of seminars. It also offers additional support through working relationships and articulation agreements with local universities.
Entrepreneurship Career Center
Providing courses in practical entrepreneurship alone is vitally important, and its value increases when paired with an integrated series of services and activities. SPC is adopting the model successfully developed at the University of Miami, where extended entrepreneurship services are housed in and coupled with the work of the Career Center. At SPC the traditional Career Center offers many services to current students in selecting career direction, developing a career plan, and obtaining occupational, industry and labor market data. The traditional Career Center also provides information on how to find employment, develop a resume and prepare for the interview. The role of the new Entrepreneurship/Career Center will be to extend those services and complement and supplement the academic programs by working with students in the entrepreneurship courses and programs to identify mentors, make referrals to community resources, and promote activities, events and host seminar series.
In the next few months, SPC will bring local small business entrepreneurs and representatives from area organizations together in a collaborative lab environment to help develop the Entrepreneurship/Career Center. The group will examine the services of the Center and help develop the structure, activities and partnerships to complement the curriculum to maximize success. The group will also discuss where SPC should look for support and methods of identifying the students who would benefit from participation. This will be a good opportunity to begin an advisory committee for the center.
An advisory committee plays an important role in maintaining and expanding the programs of SPC by assessing how the program meets employer needs; reviewing and making recommendations on the program curriculum; providing input to help prepare students for the workforce and in building community relations.
By expanding the scope of entrepreneurship programs at SPC, we are able to offer a full range of alternative options to our students in earning BAS, AS, certificate and on-demand training using credit and non-credit courses. The proposed entrepreneurship model will be accomplished by a solid foundation of applied skills including developing ideas and creating value by assessing problems and opportunities; gathering funding for a start-up; managing capital and forecasting sales; managing business operations; and the ability to strategically plan, assess risks, and negotiate and balance customer demands.
Our entrepreneurship graduates will serve both new and existing businesses, large and small. As entrepreneurs, they will start and grow new business; and, as intrapreneurs, transform businesses into higher quality and more profitable units though their entrepreneurial thinking. The model will articulate a path of educational opportunities for current and future entrepreneurs from non-credit workshops through a bachelor’s degree. Also, the program will connect students to the community through the Entrepreneurship/Career Center and offer an alternate training program for non-degree seeking students interested in certificates. SPC is excited to forge partnerships with students, entrepreneurs and successful businesses via this connection of academics, business and community. We are very optimistic!