The theme of the 2009 NACCE Conference will be "Understanding the Value.” This is the first of three articles that will appear in Community College Entrepreneur introducing this conference theme.
As community college leaders evaluate moving forward in the 21st century, they face countless choices about how to apply their financial and human resources to the greatest benefit of the communities they serve. Entrepreneurship education needs to be a leading part of this discussion on every campus. But this requires understanding its value so an accurate analysis can be made of the potential payoff of an investment in entrepreneurship education.
"Entrepreneurship education leads to the creation of new businesses and jobs and that helps a community, helps a region, and helps a state,” says NACCE Founder Tommy Goodrow. "As to its value for the college itself, when a community college demonstrates its willingness to play a role in creating wealth in its community, that really connects the college to the community. Also, entrepreneurship programs broaden the ability of community colleges to reach a broader range of community citizens than they otherwise would. Finally, there's one more benefit. Entrepreneurship education empowers educators to integrate real life understanding about how our society functions in a global economy and that enriches educators.”
"Entrepreneurship education helps spark the entrepreneurial spirit within students and ignite their passions while providing the tools necessary to succeed,” says Tim Mittan, Director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, NE. "These empowered students will bring their talents to the community as either entrepreneurs creating and growing new companies or intrapreneurs strengthening established organizations. When educated properly, communities will thrive on these forward-looking, global-reaching entrepreneurs.”
"As we talk about entrepreneurship education as a lifelong learning process, it is important to realize that young people are the pipeline that fuels the successful creation of new businesses,” says Cathy Ashmore, Executive Director of the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education in Columbus, OH. "Our organization believes that ‘Entrepreneurs are not born…rather they become through the experiences of their lives.' So our challenge is to help the teachers develop strategies to provide a great variety of experiences that will spark the entrepreneurial spirit and challenge students to develop the skills to be successful.”
Entrepreneurship education can't start too early. "Early child education in entrepreneurship has proven very effective at introducing young students to the career option of entrepreneurship and formally introducing these students to post secondary education,” says Tim Putnam, Associate Director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, IA.
Among the Center's programs for K-12 is a two-day "Entrepreneur for a Day” (E4D) program. "After reviewing our survey results, we have discovered that over 60 percent of the fifth graders that participated in entrepreneurship education would like to become an entrepreneur some day,” says Putnam. "After fifth graders participate in E4D, they take a tour of the community college campus; 42 percent of the fifth graders have never been on a college campus. The students are very bright eyed and very enthusiastic as they tour the campus and interact with current community college students. Our hope is that all these young students will see that college is an option for them.”
"Entrepreneurship education for the primary grade student is important on more than one level,” says Gayle Hsiao, Entrepreneurship Educator at the Springfield Technical Community College's Entrepreneurial Institute in Springfield, MA. "The goal of our Entrepreneur for a Day program is that we hope to teach the kids that owning their own businesses is an obtainable goal. Anyone with a good idea who is willing to work really hard can be the boss and control his/her own destiny. Kids in K-8 are dreamers and doers. They still believe they can do whatever they want to do. Many of the kids from our Entrepreneur for a Day program promise to return with their business plans so they can become a bigger part of our Entrepreneurial Institute.
"We also believe that participating in one of our programs will introduce the city kids to the college,” Hsiao adds. "They have a good experience while here and we hope they will begin to realize that the college is here for them. We have a ‘one stop' source of information and guidance for anyone starting a business now or in the future and we are here for them as their community college when the time comes for them to think about continuing their education. Participating in one of our programs may be the first step taken by many of these kids to really think about and plan their future.”
Speaking at the 2008 NACCE Conference, Mike Hennessey, President and CEO of The Coleman Foundation, summed up the critical importance of entrepreneurship education this way: "Self employment or working on a project basis is the new road to affluence and fulfillment. The economy of the future belongs to the entrepreneur, not the bureaucrat and chief….The game has changed significantly over 20 years….It's going to take everyone in this room and more to get it there. We need to move that needle forward. We've got to have an increased sense of urgency. These students are passing in front of us every day; when they move through and get away from us, if we haven't taken that opportunity to impact their lives then shame on us.”