Twenty eight middle, high school and career tech educators from around the state spent two full days – Oct 22nd and 23rd at Lake Morey Resort, Fairlee, VT immersed in learning how to support their students in developing an “entrepreneurial mindset”. Some educators back for a second advanced round, many having been to the program last fall, engaged in highly effective, fun interactive learning experiences and lesson plans that they can immediately integrate into their programs of study – any program of study or academic discipline. No matter what a person’s career pathway may be – the entrepreneurial process and mindset crosses all disciplines/fields – and helps individuals either be more successful in creating their own venture and/or being a more focused and knowledgeable employee. This year’s program was split into two levels – one for educators new to the program and one for those who had been to the program the year before (Level One and Level Two). All teachers received 15 professional development hours and several opted to do some extra work to earn one graduate credit through Castleton University.
We believe in the entrepreneurial spirit. Most of us have an internal desire to explore and achieve—but it has to be awakened. We’ve developed entrepreneurship and leadership curriculum to complement the core subjects, specific career and tech programs and standards that students are exposed to every day – elevating the impact of traditional schooling. The program takes teachers through the entrepreneurial process, idea generation, imagination, design, pithing, execution and adaptation – using problem solving, leadership, teamwork/collaboration, communication skills and abilities in an ever-changing environment to find solutions; all areas considered to be imperative in the workplace. It incorporates curriculum adapted from VT REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning), Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) resources, the Business Model Canvas, Design Thinking and other tools and resources.
The lessons are geared for both high achievers as well as those who are “at risk”; many who are first-generation, low income students. The curriculum provides real scenarios, ones students can relate to. We have seen first-hand our training of teachers translate to students (often in career and technical fields such as at Randolph Career & Tech high school) who didn’t plan to go to college and through the exposure to entrepreneurship, have gone on to further their education (such as in applied education fields at Vermont Technical College) and realize the market demand and pay for these skills.
“Our students really need this information”, wrote one participant. “I’m an agriculture and horticulture teacher with zero entrepreneurship training”. Following the close of the program another teacher wrote, “Thank you for your concepts, energy, wisdom, and organization this past Monday and Tuesday. Full disclosure, this was probably one of my favorite Professional Development events I have ever attended. Time is a valuable commodity, and I certainly value and appreciate yours”.
The program is sponsored by the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC), the Vermont Business Education Corp (VBEC) and the Vermont Agency of Education(VAOE) and Co-facilitated by Laurel Butler, VtSBDC Business Advisor/Student Entrepreneur Specialist (also a member of the Vermont Technical College (VTC) staff supporting STEM Experiential Education/Outreach) and Tamie-Jo Dickinson, Champlain Valley UHS Business/Entrepreneurship Faculty/FBLA & DECA Advisor and VTC & Castleton Adjunct Faculty along with support from Debra Boudrieau and Sarah Kearns, VtSBDC Business Advisors. Butler and Dickinson are Master Facilitators of the VT REAL (Vermont Real Entrepreneurship Action Learning) Curriculum and also co-direct the summer Governor’s Institutes of Vermont Entrepreneurship Program at Vermont Technical College where students can earn 3 college credits using their dual enrollment vouchers. “This is important material, life skills,” Butler says about the program. “It’s critical. We would have less young people at risk, disengaged or wondering about their future.” She sees teaching the “entrepreneurial mindset” as providing the foundation for critical thinking, financial literacy and social networking skills which will help in the changing economy and have fun along the way.
Whether a student’s goals are centered on future college success, preparation for the workforce, or enhancing their career and technical center experience, learning to think like an entrepreneur has value for all. This augmented learning lifts kids’ engagement, pushes their academic progress and raises their ceilings. It’s not just for those who start businesses. There is a business side to every career pathway: engineering, technology, design, health care, the arts, hospitality, education, agriculture, building trades, auto/diesel tech, business and all other areas; the skills and confidence they gain from learning about and creating an “entrepreneurial mindset” will help them succeed now and into the future.
Vermont Business Education Corporation (VBEC) in partnership with the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC), is committed to Vermont students of all ages interested in becoming entrepreneurs and future leaders in Vermont’s workforce; we are invested in the growth of our state. VBEC President and VtSBDC State Director, Linda Rossi, says “VtSBDC sees the creation of a pipeline of future entrepreneurs and/or workforce leaders, and the continuance of seamless statewide educational and business assistance networks, as essential objectives for entrepreneurship – from middle school through secondary (highs school and career technical center programs) and post-secondary educational offerings”.
VBEC hosts statewide student and teacher entrepreneurship programs. It provides teacher trainings and programs within schools and showcases annual entrepreneurship events such as Entrepreneurship Day in February in Montpelier for high school/career technical center students and the annual business plan and pitch competitions. It utilizes many of the VtSBDC resources plus incorporates VT REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning), an experiential learning curriculum that develops entrepreneurial knowledge and skills, while guiding participants through the process of planning, creating and operating a business of their own design. As a result, students are able to see problems as opportunities to create social and economic value and act on them now.
The Value Behind Teaching Entrepreneurship in our Schools and Why We Do This:
Developing an “entrepreneurial mindset” means: Thinking outside of the box; creating, experimenting; applying new knowledge across subjects and in new ways; critical thinking and evaluation; identifying problems; taking risks, grit and awareness of the wider world – These skills are transferrable and go beyond simple acquisition of knowledge. They beg that a student uses knowledge and applies learning to create solutions. Most importantly, they require that students combine common sense and a knowledge of the wider world with the information they learn in the classroom. Students gain the skills, technical knowledge, academic foundation and real-world experience they need to prepare for high skill, high demand, and high wage careers.” Developing an “entrepreneurial mindset” has the power to transform lives, communities and the world.
Vermont, like the country as a whole, is working to diversify its economy – small businesses and entrepreneurial skills training are critical to Vermont’s economic success. However, most of our Vermont schools do not teach what should be the centerpiece of a contemporary education: entrepreneurship, the capacity to not only start companies but also to think creatively and ambitiously. Entrepreneurship education benefits students from all socioeconomic backgrounds because it teaches kids to think outside the box and nurtures unconventional talents and skills. Furthermore, it creates opportunity, ensures social justice, instills confidence and stimulates the economy.
Our Vermont high school & career-tech center teachers are highly skilled in their teaching disciplines however, very few have any training or background in teaching/facilitating entrepreneurship literacy within their curriculum. And, as Vermont now focuses on personalized learning environments to offer flexible pathways where schools and teachers help students plan a pathway toward their own futures with promising jobs and work cooperatively with others on challenging tasks, we can support and leverage teachers’ efforts by training them in ways for students to develop an “entrepreneurial mindset”.
Students trained in entrepreneurship education enter the world not only trained to identify problems that need solving, but also determined to creatively solve problems, meet needs, and make the world a better place. Entrepreneurship education holds great value for all of our Vermont students, and in particular, those entering the fields of science, technology, engineering, advanced manufacturing, business, healthcare, and education. The future belongs to the innovators and creators, and entrepreneurship education serves as a great incubator for the types of creative, innovative ideas our Vermont students and our world need in the 21st century.
Also check out the upcoming programs available to students/teachers here: https://www.vtsbdc.org/specialty-services/youth-entrepreneurship/