Program Teaches Students About Business By Having Them Run One

Only 8% of high school students followed courses that made them college or career ready, revealed a recent report released by The Education Trust. The study also stated that a mere 13% took a course of study that made them workplace ready.

By Victor Ochieng

It’s because of such damning realities that some companies opt to offer training to their employees before fully absorbing them in a working environment.

To address this, the Virtual Enterprises International program was initiated. The program is a virtual entrepreneurship course bringing the real business environment and industry mentors to schools.

It follows after similar programs implemented in Germany and Australia that stemmed from the apprenticeship model widely hailed for its great success.

VEI, a nonprofit based in New York, has found its way into 500 classrooms across the nation.

“This is basically a workforce development model,” says Iris Blanc, VEI’s executive director and one of the first New York City educators who observed the original program implemented in Austria. “Students in VEI are doing real work, applying what they’re learning in class to a real business setting.”

The program started small in 1996 in just seven New York City high schools, but later grew after so many other schools showed interest in it. After seeing the interest, Blanc went ahead and registered the program as a nonprofit.

To ensure efficacy, students are taken through the most recent procedure of starting up a business, how to handle tax returns, salary payments, as well as handling real bank accounts. The program’s focus is the students, while teachers act as facilitators. The program provides a feeling of empowerment, encouraging students to get actively involved in running the businesses.

About her business, one student, Hagir Elzin of Brooklyn, New York-based Hamilton High School, says, “It just feels like a real business.” Elzin and her team dedicate over 10 hours every week to develop the business, working with a mentor from Deloitte.

“We’re using the culture and diversity of Brooklyn as a marketing angle for our business,” she says.

For a school to qualify for the program, the school must demonstrate that it has the requisite technological infrastructure. Besides the infrastructural requirements, interested schools are also required to pay some nominal fee.

Teachers taking part in the program receive some level of training on how to run the program.

“Students learn about business by running a business,” says Blanc. “VEI provides authentic learning opportunities as well as business and industry mentors. Businesses also host internships. They are identifying talent for their companies.”

For more information, visit their website here.

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