Academic journal article Journal of Entrepreneurship Education

Assuring Quality in Entrepreneurship Training: A Quality Function Deployment (Qfd) Approach

Academic journal article Journal of Entrepreneurship Education

Assuring Quality in Entrepreneurship Training: A Quality Function Deployment (Qfd) Approach

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The Self Employment Assistance (SEA) Program is an entrepreneurial training program conducted in several states in the U.S. One of the SEA Programs conducted at a university in Pennsylvania has provided entrepreneurial training to nearly 400 individuals between 1998 and 2008. Based on the a priori criteria established by the state of Pennsylvania, the program was highly successful. In this article, however, a Quality Function Deployment/House of Quality approach has been employed to assess the program from a client/participant perspective and to demonstrate the process for continuous quality improvement. Individuals engaged in entrepreneurship education and training can obtain valuable information from the methodology and the results of this study.

INTRODUCTION

The important role of small business in the U.S. economy is well documented in terms of a number of key and very impressive statistics (U.S. Small Business Administration, 2008):

* Represent 99.7% of all firms

* Employ about 50% of private sector employees

* Nearly 45% of private payroll

* Produce 13 times more patents than large firms

There is typically a great deal of turmoil in the landscape of businesses in the U.S. as reflected in the "births and deaths" of firms. In 2007, there were 637,100 new firms, 560,300 closures and 28,322 bankruptcies. The survival rate for firms is 67% after two years; 44% survive at least four years and 31% survive at least seven years (U.S. Small Business Administration, 2008).

Given the importance andû\& survival statistics of small businesses, it is logical that there have been a large number of publicly funded service providers that have been created to support small business. These are evident at the national level (e.g., Small Business Development Centers), the state level (e.g., Industrial Resource Centers - IRCs) and the local level (e.g., loan funds).

The Self Employment Assistance (SEA) Program was created through the 1994 NAFTA legislation (USDA, 2009) that was based on the premise that there would be an inordinate level of unemployment stemming from the "export" of j obs to Mexico. The SEA Program was available for any state to initiate, provided they would pass conforming legislation at the state level and receive federal approval. The essence of the legislation was this: unemployed workers could continue to receive unemployment benefits from their states while receiving training, starting a business and earning income for that business. This was a major departure from existing policy, thus requiring the federal enabling legislation.

Seven states have been actively involved in delivering this program: Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

In 1998, the state of Pennsylvania funded eight pilot sites, primarily associated with universities. This article chronicles one of these Pennsylvania programs which has conducted 40 cohort programs including approximately 400 participants over an eleven year period. This SEA Program has been demonstrated to be a success in terms of: a) achieving the criteria mandated by the State of Pennsylvania (the funding agency), b) number and percentage of businesses up and running and c) numerous success stories (Bharadwaj, Falcone and Osborne, 2004). This article, however, focuses more on the assessment of the content and delivery of the various components of the SEA training program from the perspective of the clients/participants. The program has been evaluated by focusing on participants' perceptions of the importance and satisfaction levels of the different attributes of the training. The Quality Function Deployment/House of Quality and the SERVQUAL approaches have been employed to assess the entrepreneurship training program.

The paper is organized as follows: A comprehensive literature review is presented pertaining to broad entrepreneurship training, training pertaining to displaced workers, and specifically, the SEA Program. …

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