ERIC Identifier: ED338899
Publication Date: 1991-00-00
Author: Lankard, Bettina A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
The Vocational Education/Entrepreneurship Match. ERIC Digest
Small businesses are becoming increasingly vital to the economy. In the
United States, "five million small businesses generate 38% of the Gross National
Product and employ 91 million workers--47.9% of the nation's work force"
(Herbert 1989, p. 103). It has been predicted that at least 8 million new
businesses will be established between 1989 and 2000 (Ashmore 1989b).
As society continues to be more service oriented and as businesses continue
to trim the numbers of employees, self-employment and business ownership will
become viable and appealing goals for today's students. Educational institutions
have a responsibility to include in their curriculum techniques for helping
students develop entrepreneurial skills so that they will not be among the 45
percent of small businesses that fail within their first year (Chambers 1989).
This ERIC DIGEST looks at some reasons why instruction in small business
development is particularly appropriate to vocational and career education,
describes some secondary school programs that deal with entrepreneurship, and
presents recommendations for enhancing curriculum and instruction in small
VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND SMALL BUSINESS
Vocational education has always been dedicated to preparing its
graduates for employment in the workplace--typically in existing businesses.
Students learn job-specific and employability skills and are given opportunities
to use these skills through work experience programs that connect them with the
business community. These experiences help students form a base of knowledge
about the function and operation of a business and develop some level of
familiarity and comfort with the business environment--two basic elements of
entrepreneurship. Vocational educators have come to recognize that starting a
business is a natural outgrowth of vocational skills training (Ashmore 1990).
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ENTREPRENEUR
The profile of the
adult entrepreneur reflects in many ways the characteristics attributed to
vocational education students. For example, most entrepreneurs are
action-oriented people who believe that working hard and smart is the key to
success. Many of them were enterprising children, earning money through
babysitting, paper routes, and so forth. They often come from families where one
or both parents have owned a business. In fact, over 50 percent of the
entrepreneurs have learned how to run a business from observing and working with
family members (Oldham 1988). Additionally, many entrepreneurs do not have
college degrees. The National Federation of Independent Business reports that 40
percent of today's entrepreneurs have a high school degree or less, and 8
percent are high school dropouts (Ashmore 1989b).
Most entrepreneurs will establish small businesses. According to the Small
Business Administration, "more than 90 percent of the nation's businesses have
fewer than 20 employees" (ibid., p. 28). More than 50 percent of all
entrepreneurs start businesses in areas in which they have job experience, and
personal savings are their most important source of funding. Students in
vocational education programs have opportunities for job experience and for
earning, saving, and investing money at an earlier stage of life than their
peers, contributing to their belief in their abilities and to a sense of
A survey of 9,106 Ohio business owners offers additional input to the
entrepreneurial profile that supports vocational education as a vehicle for
providing entrepreneurship education (Ashmore 1989b):
out of six business owners was in a high school vocational
program (16.2%). Sixty percent of Ohio's entrepreneurs
surveyed did not have a college degree.
graduates were much younger when they started their
businesses than the balance of the entrepreneurs.
entrepreneurs came from trade and industrial education,
followed by agriculture, and then business education.
of the business owners started with less than $5,000.
Only 21% started with more than $50,000.
of the business owners reported participating in
further education or training after business startup. (pp. 212-213)
VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP EDUCATION ARE
To be effective in preparing students for a changing society
and workplace, vocational education must extend beyond the delivery of
occupational knowledge, job skills, and work experience. It must offer students
an incentive for thinking creatively about an industry and broaden their
understanding of the career opportunities afforded in that industry.
Entrepreneurship education offers students such opportunity by helping them
anticipate and respond to change. Students learn that (1) although a job may be
successfully accomplished today by performing a given set of tasks, tomorrow an
entirely different set of tasks (and skills) may be required; and (2) because
businesses are always changing, workers need to find new ways to do given jobs
or new ways to do a given job better (Ashmore 1989a). Ashmore promotes
brainstorming of potential businesses in the various vocational areas as a means
of making students aware of self-employment as another route to success and
The partnerships that typically exist between community business owners and
vocational educators offer another benefit to infusing entrepreneurship
education in vocational education. Nurturing business creation concepts
coincides with the support already provided by business owners who contribute to
vocational education by serving on advisory boards and curriculum committees, as
classroom speakers and co-op employers.
PROGRAMS AND PRACTICES
Several curricula to help students
learn how to start and run successful businesses are highlighted in the
literature. The Business Magnet III course offered at Central High School in
Louisville, Kentucky, involves local banks and businesses in teaching students
eight key steps to entrepreneurship (Chambers 1989). After students complete
these steps, they build a scale model detailing the plans for their hypothetical
Ocean County Vocational Technical School in Toms River, New Jersey, has
initiated a competency-based vocational curricula with basic skills and academic
linkages for their entrepreneurial program called COM-LINK. The program uses a
student workbook containing study questions, exercises, sample materials, and
information sheets on starting a small business (De Maria 1989).
To assist first-time business persons, FIRST BUSINESS GUIDE (Terminello 1991)
offers information as well as administrative and operational techniques for
one-person enterprises. The five main sections of the guide are business
administration; cash and budget management and accounting and bookkeeping;
marketing and sales; estimation, project management, and scheduling; and
merchandising and inventory.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
In 1987, a
survey was conducted of 1,169 identified entrepreneurial graduates of
Minnesota's Technical Institute from the 10 years prior to 1984 to learn the
types and sizes of businesses they established and the vocational areas from
which they graduated (Minnesota State Council on Vocational and Technical
Education 1989). The findings resulted in the following recommendations for
curriculum: (1) emphasize business planning, computer applications, managing
capital/cash flow, marketing skills, and accounting skills; (2) promote the
involvement of vocational program instructors in any business management
instruction initiatives across all program areas; and (3) emphasize
opportunities for entrepreneurship education strategies to meet the special
needs of targeted populations and to promote vocational equity for all students
Similar recommendations were made following a survey of small business
managers to determine their perceptions of the importance of various topics to
be included in a high school entrepreneurship/small business management program
(Herbert 1989). The 79 responses collected from the 130 small business managers
were summarized as follows:
High school-level instruction in small business management
should focus primarily on management principles,
communications/human relations, resource management, and
The remainder of the course/unit should feature a balanced
curriculum emphasizing the small business/entrepreneurial
environment and the functional areas of management.
Relatively little time should be devoted to
computer/information processing and international business.
The choice to infuse entrepreneurship education in the curriculum rests with
the teacher, which may be difficult for teachers who have little or no training
to teach the subject. Teacher inservice workshops to encourage infusion can be
offered to all vocational teachers in an area as part of a teachers conference
or to groups of teachers in the same discipline (Ashmore 1990). They can be
offered in various regions of the state to allow for economy of time and travel
expense. Because funding for these workshops requires commitment from
educational leaders at the school and state level, the importance of
entrepreneurship education within the vocational education context must be
communicated to these administrators to gain their support.
Another source of entrepreneurship education includes nationally sponsored
clubs such as the Distributive Education Clubs of America, Future Business
Leaders of America, Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, Future Farmers of
America, Future Homemakers of America, and Health Education and Related
Occupations. The activities initiated in these organizations can provide
students a broadened understanding of small business development and its
potential for their future.
Ashmore, M. C. "Challenging Creativity through
Entrepreneurship." In KEYS TO THE FUTURE OF SMALL BUSINESS, edited by G. T.
Solomon et al. Columbus: Center on Education and Training for Employment, The
Ohio State University, 1989a.
Ashmore, M. C. "The Power of the Entrepreneurial Vision." VOCATIONAL
EDUCATION JOURNAL 64, no. 8 (November-December 1989b): 28-29. (EJ 399 950)
Ashmore, M. C. "Entrepreneurship in Vocational Education." In ENTREPRENEURSHIP EDUCATION: CURRENT DEVELOPMENT, FUTURE PROMISES. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1990.
Chambers, J. G. "Preventing Risky Business in 8 Steps." VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
JOURNAL 64, no. 8 (November-December 1989): 33. (EJ 399 952)
De Maria, R. ENTREPRENEUR PROGRAM. COM-LINK. Toms River, NJ: Ocean County
Vocational Technical School, 1989. (ED 314 560)
Herbert, B. "Managers' Perceptions of the Importance of Topics for the High
School Management Curriculum." DELTA PI EPSILON JOURNAL 31, no. 3 (Summer 1989):
103-111. (EJ 393 207)
Minnesota State Council on Vocational Technical Education. DEVELOPING ENTREPRENEURIAL COMPETENCE AMONG MINNESOTA'S TECHNICAL INSTITUTE STUDENTS. St. Paul: MSCVTE, 1989. (ED 319 953)
Oldham, L. L. ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE EIGHTIES, MONOGRAPH, VOL. 3, NO. 2.
Columbus: Instructional Materials Laboratory, The Ohio State University, 1988.
(ED 301 757)
Terminello, R. M. FIRST BUSINESS GUIDE. Columbus: Center on Education and
Training for Employment, The Ohio State University, 1991. (ED 329 765)