Entrepreneurship education plays a key role in empowering the next generation of business leaders. The Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) has worked to develop business skills in students through a variety of educational programs and initiatives over the past twelve years. During these events, students participate in hands-on activities that foster creativity and problem-solving. VtSBDC start-up advisor and entrepreneurship educator, Laurel Butler, says, “We must equip our youth to participate in the innovation economy, either as entrepreneurs or as entrepreneurial employees!”
The workforce supply gap has plagued Vermont and continues to threaten its economic development goals. One concerning demographic trend is that young people tend to move out of Vermont after they graduate from secondary or post-secondary schools. This creates unfilled job openings in the broader state economy. VtSBDC State Director, Linda Rossi, sees how educating Vermont youth in entrepreneurship may provide clarity around how they can directly impact the future of the state. She says, “Investing in entrepreneurship education is a strong step towards increasing Vermont’s workforce population and starting and growing new ventures.”
Over the last twelve years, the Vermont Small Business Development Center has created and hosted several statewide student and teacher learning sessions to promote the power of entrepreneurship. With the help of partner organizations such as Vermont Business Education Corporation (VBEC), Vermont Technical College, and Governor’s Institutes of Vermont (GIV), Vermont’s Agency of Education, Career & Tech Student Organizations (CTSO), more than 70 teachers have been trained.
Vermont educators agree, the ripple effects of entrepreneurship training are invaluable. A past attendee explained, “These trainings have given me the skills as an educator to prepare my students to embark on their own entrepreneurial endeavors, but more importantly, they give students the invaluable transferable skills that support lifelong learning and productive members of our society. When applying what I gained during these training sessions, you will see my students actively engaged in their learning, as opposed to robotically going through the motions in class”.
In addition, students from 58 out of the 70 public schools in Vermont have attended the events, which in some cases, count towards academic credit. One student said in reference to the Governor’s Institute on Entrepreneurship event, “I want to learn more of this so I can take over our family farm/business one day; It was fun to put my business idea out into the world…In the beginning I was afraid to speak and pitch my idea – I don’t feel so scared anymore; I got an internship through the process; It was amazing to present to the College President, the VSC Chancellor and VT’s Labor Commissioner.”
In 2021, there are five more entre-ed events planned, using remote-learning tools.
Entrepreneurship is often referred to as a “mindset;” VtSBDC shares a learning model that aims to break down the seemingly unattainable stereotype of an entrepreneur into experiential learning examples. The lessons put forth enable students to recognize the entrepreneurial spirit within them, and leverage it in achieving their goals. Rather than focusing on technical skills, the model favors idea generation, imagination, design thinking, execution, and adaptation. “Through teaching the entrepreneurial mindset, we are also nurturing life lessons,” Linda says. The programs created by VtSBDC are designed to eliminate the barriers felt by young people in establishing the life they want to live, and having the confidence to pursue it.
The Vermont Small Business Development Center, with help from partners around the state, aims to inspire the next generation of Vermont’s workforce. Entrepreneurship events are designed to give young people and teachers the tools and experience needed to address current and future personal, community, and global challenges. Further, VtSBDC is committed to support and empower student ideas and accomplishments through access to its own advisors and community of inspiring business owners.
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