How much did you know about business in high school? Did your teachers give you the real, insider information such as how to market yourself, suggest ideas, work within a team on a project? With more students at earlier ages taking a keen interest in the realms of commerce, teachers are being asked to add these true-life tips to the timeworn business accounting and economics classes.
To make sure the high school teachers and counselors are coming back to their classes well armed with the information their soon-to-be-working students require, the Princeton Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the College of New Jersey Small Business Development Center are hosting their 10th annual “Educators Institute.” From Monday through Friday, June 23 through 27, school teachers counselors, principals, and administrators will gather at the Princeton Marriott at 8:30 a.m. Each morning kicks off with a keynote speaker, some panel discussions, and follows with a field trip to an area business. To register, teachers and counselors of grades K-12 can visit www.princetonchamberfoundation.org, or call 609-924-1776.
This year’s theme of “Business Finance and Entrepreneurism” has Educators’ Institute participants touring such Princeton-area businesses as the Mercadien Group accounting firm on Quakerbridge Road, Bloomberg Financial on Business Park Drive, PNC Bank, Bank of Princeton, and New Jersey Manufacturers’ Insurance and Educational Testing Service in West Trenton.
Upon completing the week’s institute, the administrators, guidance counselors, and classroom teachers will meet again in October and share the various lesson plans each has developed.
Early entrepreneurs. “It’s different today,” says Lorraine Allen president of TCNJ Small Business Development Center. “The age for entrepreneurism is continually decreasing and Internet capabilities are ever increasing,” she says. Allen will be moderating the “Entrepreneurs Panel” on Wednesday, June 25, at 8:45 a.m. She credits technology for much of this earlier interest starting a business. The increased flow of information andminimal launch costs brought about by the Internet have made entrepreneurism a common occurrence in the younger set.
Accompanying technology is an improved enterprise climate. Large corporate layoffs have sent substantial portions of our workforce into small startup businesses. These new and numerous kids in the business community have quickly gained acceptance. Clients, funders, and vendors have all become used to the lean, garage-based companies that, without frills, can get the work out inexpensively, on time. The necessity to impress associates with plush, expensive offices has vanished, as outsourcing clients care more for the quality of the work, than the environs of its production.
“The most valuable thing we can teach our students is that entrepreneurism is a viable, very accessible alternative to employment,” says Allen. “Students are aiming to be CEO of their own firm, rather than someone else’s CEO. They see their parents doing it.
They themselves are wizards with computers. “We’d be wrong not to encourage them,” Allen says, who recalls her own entrepreneurial days, when the reality of a disabled husband and two children sent her to struggle and start her own business, which eventually grew and thrived.
As a special boost for enterprising youngsters, Allen notes that the SBDC provides a consultant program that matches startup owners with a veteran in their industry. The center also identifies and helps coordinate financing. It offers advice on getting a presence on the web, and developing accurate business and marketing plans. Check them out at www.tcnj.edu/~sbdc/.
Insider training. “Somewhere beyond the concept of promptness, groomed hair, and business math, we need to be providing today’s students with a full work ethic for their work environment,” says Catherine Reeves, director of the Entrepreneurial Business Academy for Service and Education, or EBASE at the Upper Freehold Regional School District. She should know. Reeves has spent this past decade bringing the world of business into the classroom.
A native of Leonia, Reeves received her bachelor’s in English literature, and a masters in education from Ball University in Indiana. Her years of teaching eventually brought her back to New Jersey. Reeves also serves as education chair of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce. In Upper Freehold she initiated the business partnership program and a senior business practicum. In this program, seniors take a nonpaying internship in the field they want to explore, keep journals, and gather needed experience.
Reeves wants to give young students the tools that both stimulate critical thinking, and also cultivate the sensitivity of knowing how to suggest the change. “Acceptance lies not so much in the message as the delivery system,” she says.
Reeves ticks off the list: decision making skills, interfacing with a variety of people, building confidence, yet not having an attitude, and even how to deal with office gossip. “This is the real guts of business,” she says. “Very shortly these students will be entering an environment where everyone is older and more experienced. We’ve got to teach them to actually blossom in this milieu.”
Each of the concepts Allen and Reeves seeks to instill will certainly benefit any single student. But by reaching out to the educators who deal with perennial crops of students, a legacy is created. Business will have more capable human resources joining its forces, and more importantly, those young individuals will be armed with greater assets for a more enriched life.