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Skills learned in vocational schools can transfer easily into an entrepreneurial setting. However, students are coming up short when it comes to starting their own businesses. Maybe it's time for vocational schools to teach entrepreneurship in order to better prepare their students.

Should Vocational Schools Teach Entrepreneurship?

By Holly Johnson
RWM Columnist
Apr 18, 2013

For many in the workforce, owning your own business is a piece of the "American Dream." The allure of working for yourself is very tempting. However, the challenge of entrepreneurship is no easy task to master. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are approximately 550,000 to 675,000 businesses that open their doors in the United States each year. However, within five years, 50 percent of these businesses will fail (SBA.gov) . Although the reasons for this are numerous, most of them point back to the same issue: poor management. While training in entrepreneurship is certainly no guarantee of business success, knowledge of basic business concepts and practices can certainly help steer entrepreneurs toward profitability.

Business Vocation School

One of the great things about the United States is that almost everybody has the freedom to choose where they work. This includes the opportunity to open your own business. In fact, entrepreneurship represents the backbone of the American economy. The SBA reports that small businesses account for 99.7 percent of all employer firms and about half of all private sector employment (SBA.gov). While the ease to be able to start your own business is wonderful, many people fail to understand fundamental business skills such as basic accounting, management, and marketing practices. It stands to reason that not comprehending these skills prior to opening your own business may result in a higher rate of failure.

The trades and skills learned at vocational schools lend themselves to those wishing to become entrepreneurs. In fact, many who graduate from these schools will try their hand at entrepreneurship at some time during their career. Unfortunately, the knowledge that they gain at these schools leaves them woefully lacking when it comes to entrepreneurship. Many trade and vocational schools do an excellent job training their graduates with the hands-on skills that they will need to succeed in their chosen field. However, they fail to prepare their students with the basic business skills that they will need should they choose to open their own business or practice. Given the high number of graduates of vocational schools who attempt entrepreneurship, perhaps it is time that vocational schools begin offering courses in entrepreneurship - becoming a sort of "vocational business school." The National Center for Research in Vocational Education (NCRVE) thinks so, anyway.

The Importance of Entrepreneurship

According to M. Catherine Ashmore's "Entrepreneurship in Vocational Education," the NCRVE has developed what it calls the "Lifelong Entrepreneurship Education Model." Its goal is to educate students at all levels of education about entrepreneurship. The model is composed of five different stages, with a break for employment experience between stages three and four. Students in elementary, junior high, and high school are to be exposed to the basics of entrepreneurship. This lifelong approach to learning continues all the way through business startup, with entrepreneurs learning to grow and sustain their business. This study of entrepreneurship may possibly be the difference between business success and failure.

Ashmore reports in "Entrepreneurship in Vocational Education" that the Congressional Commission on Jobs and Small Business believes that vocational education can play a key role in the development of over ten million new jobs in the next decade. Adding entrepreneurial studies to the curriculum could have a major impact on whether or not vocational graduates succeed in their business endeavors. With this in mind, future students may demand more from their vocational schools. Graduates of vocational business schools may have a decided advantage upon entering the workforce and following the entrepreneurship path.

Sources:

Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, "Frequently Asked Questions," http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/sbfaq.pdf
Forbes,"Why Do Companies Fail?" Ken Makovsky, May 31, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenmakovsky/2012/05/31/why-do-companies-fail/
Entrepreneurship Education, "Entrepreneurship in Vocational Education," M. Catherine Ashmore, http://210.46.97.180/zonghe/book/205-Entrepreneurship%20Education-Quorum%20Books-Calvin%20A.%20Kent/part4_14.htm