Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

The Effect on Economic Development of an Entrepreneurship Program at a North Carolina Community College

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

The Effect on Economic Development of an Entrepreneurship Program at a North Carolina Community College

Article excerpt

This article presents the findings from a review of a community college's entrepreneurship course designed to encourage business start-ups. The study utilized a survey to obtain information from 142 Haywood Community College students who completed the Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL) course. Qualitative interviews were conducted with two REAL graduates to provide additional insight related to students' experiences with the course and their business start-ups, and economic contributions by business owners. The results indicated that 26.8% of respondents started a business, 8.5% expanded a business after the completion of the REAL course and 34.5% of participants indicated that their future plans included some type of business start-up. Businesses started by course completers contributed to the local economy by creating jobs and revenues.

Introduction

Haywood Community College is located in the rural mountains of western North Carolina, a region that has experienced a significant loss of jobs in recent years principally due to manufacturing and textile plant closures (Haywood Community College, 1998) . In The State of the South 2004, MDC, a non-profit organization located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, reported that "In just three years, 1998-2001, the South lost 465,000 manufacturing jobs, a 7.7 percent drop. Factory jobs declined by more than 10 percent in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina" (p. 8).

The problems of plant closures, dislocated workers, and retraining workers have become a paramount concern to community colleges in the region (Barwick, 2004). Rural counties often face issues of poverty and isolation that inhibit their ability to attract employers (Barwick, 2004; Chesson «Sc Rubin, 2003; Eller, R., Martinez, R., Pace, C, Pavel, M., Garza, H., & Barnett, L., 1998; Pennington, Pittman, & Hurley, 2001). In its report, MDC noted that employees in the southern region of the United States have suffered more than in other regions due to the low educational levels, job skills, and income levels of the workforce. The report also encouraged entrepreneurship as a viable option to employees who have become unemployed after plant closures. Similarly, Hernandez-Gantes, Sorensen, and Nierie (1996) indicated a need for postsecondary institutions to foster entrepreneurship. Their report emphasized the need to retrain unskilled individuals who have become unemployed while indicating a need for entrepreneurial training due to the high failure rate of business start-ups.

Haywood Community College embraced entrepreneurship education in the early 1980s as a means to provide students with an additional employment option. Small Business Management classes were first taught to Business Administration and Professional Crafts students in order to provide students with the entrepreneurial skills needed to become small business owners. Entrepreneurship was later integrated into the cosmetology and horticulture curricula. The college recognized the positive effect entrepreneurship had in Haywood County and began using the Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL) curriculum in the late 1980s (Haywood Community College, 1998).

REAL Enterprises is a non-profit organization focused on preparing students to become entrepreneurs, enabling participants to become "job creators not job applicants" (REAL Enterprises Teaching Guide, 1999). REAL Enterprise's Teaching Guide describes the program as follows:

REAL Enterprises is an organization dedicated to fostering student entrepreneurship as a means to improve the opportunities and skills of rural youth and adults. State-level nonprofit REAL member organizations work in partnership with rural high schools, post-secondary institutions, and community-based organizations to create experiential entrepreneurship courses integrated into their curricula. In the REAL course, participants analyze themselves and their local cornmunity and research, plan, open, and own enterprises intended to contribute to the local economy and provide meaningful employment for their creators, (p. …

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