New York State School Boards Association

BOCES’ entrepreneurship curriculum complements CTE programs

On Board Online • June 6, 2011 

By Renee Hoey and Tracy Musso
Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES

To be successful in the 21st century, students will need a variety of “soft skills” such as being an effective communicator and being resourceful.  They will also need to understand the global economy and how businesses compete with each other in the marketplace. In central New York, Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES is addressing these 21st Century skills and others through entrepreneurship education.

Entrepreneurship education can be much more than teaching students how to own and operate a business. It can encourage civic-mindedness by raising the same kinds of questions school board members and other community leaders ask:  What makes a community function at its optimal level?  How much of a difference can individuals make by investing in their communities?

Faculty have worked with Cayuga Community College and several local business professionals to design the entrepreneurship program. The effort has been supported by a two-year, $25,000 grant from The Kauffman Foundation, which supports entrepreneurship.

Cayuga – Onondaga BOCES chose to integrate the entrepreneurship strand into the English Language Arts curriculum. The essential skills of technical reading, writing, listening and speaking are reinforced and mastered at commencement level.          

The grant money supported a full year of professional development and curriculum writing. The culminating annual event is a business plan competition that was first held in May 2010.  Students from four career and technical programs shared their visions of a sustainable and viable business to a large audience and a select panel of judges.  The judges have included representatives from Cayuga Community College, the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, the Stardust Foundation and the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

One lesson seems to be that entrepreneurship education is a natural extension of career and technical education. In addition to teaching students a trade, BOCES can teach them how to market that trade.

The students who participated in last year’s Business Plan Competition found the skills they learned in their career and technical programs had plenty of applications in their business plans for their potential companies.

Jared Smith, who took a course in Graphic Design and New Media, created a business plan for his company, Atlas Animation.  He didn’t need to budget much for marketing because of his knowledge of the InDesign layout program. His plan allowed him to create much of his own marketing material.

Student Evelyn Blaisdell developed her business idea after taking a course in Plant, Animal and Life Sciences. She named her company Puppilicious Makeover Magic, which specializes in makeovers for dogs. 

Zack Dixon created a business plan for Dixon’s Instant Foot Relief, which would offer a medicated sock for tired and sore feet. Dixon didn’t budget for web design because he acquired those skills by taking Computer Application Technology and Web Development.  He was also able to organize his financial data because of his familiarity with the Excel spreadsheet program. 

Students’ business ideas didn’t have to be practical for them to demonstrate their understanding of entrepreneurship. Emily Shanahan and Tony Verdi, former Cosmetology students, imagined a multi-million dollar biodome spa that would transform clients into celebrity look-alikes. 

The competition generated a great deal of interest within our organization and our community. Students were excited about their businesses and were enthused by the energy of the audience. The number of participants doubled for the May 2011 competition. 

Students say the entrepreneurship curriculum is relevant to their interests. “Small business is a big part of our economy, and it helps those who want to own their business become knowledgeable about marketing and supply and demand,”  said student Trisha Delaney, who is the winner of the May 2011 Business Plan Competition.

Kim Lupo, a student in the Plant, Animal and Life Sciences said the following: “Entrepreneurship education is important because it is a way to gain independence and get your own ideas out into the world.”

Renee Hoey and Tracy Musso are English language arts teachers at  Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES. 

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