I attended the EntreEd Consortium Forum in Oklahoma City with the National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education.
The session on engaging businesses with school entrepreneurship programs generated a lot of interesting thoughts for me as a business owner sitting in on a discussion among educators.
Businesses are desperately interested in skills in the workforce. It’s a natural connection point. But schools often get business people on a list or committee, but never give them something specific they can do. Too often, the only involvement of businesses is in meetings. And as a business person, I can tell you that the worst thing you can do to me is involve me in a bunch of dull meetings.
Give businesspeople things to do, a program of work, easy to dos. Some suggestions from the educators:
- Ask them for trends
- Have them review your curriculum to help you better clarify your understanding of curriculum
- Ask them for real life examples that match lesson plans
- Give them chances to employ kids. Work-based learning opportunities
- Ask them to share how they got where they are, education it took
- Ask for financial support
- Serve as speakers and panel members
- Evaluate presentations, give input on projects
- Serve as judges at competitions, mock events
- Host on-site visits, tours, interviews
- Help translate terms between education and industry
- Help connect your requests with business realities
Some of the benefits to employers from getting involved in entrepreneurial education include:
- Address workforce skills gaps
- Access to emerging leaders
- Personal growth opportunities for their staff
- Community recognition as a business involved with education
- Give them volunteer assistance with their business projects
There are good ways and bad ways to ask business people to get involved in entrepreneurial education. Rather than make the first time they hear from you a request for a donation or to join a committee, follow these steps.
- Make the initial contact just getting to know each other
- Continue with more contact to make the ask
- Follow up and keep any promises you make
Before you ask for money, have a business plan for where that money is going. Show them what you’re doing. Have kids show their skills by helping with the ask. Build relationships with businesspeople first.
Especially in small towns, there should be strong connections between businesses and schools. I hope these ideas will help increase the number of towns where that is true.
Bring students downtown
If you want to connect business owners with entrepreneurship programs, get in there among them. Stafford, Kansas, is in a county with a population of approx 5,000. Their schools bring entrepreneurship students out of the school building and into downtown, where they operate their own businesses and work on other real-world business projects.
Listen to my interview with Natalie Clark, who explains about the student entrepreneurship programs at the SEED Center in a downtown storefront in Stafford.
About my coverage: EntreEd provided me with a media pass to cover my registration for the Forum. I paid for all my other expenses.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.