Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Starting from Scratch

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Starting from Scratch

Article excerpt

There are as many different start-up stories as there are communitybuilding enterprises. Every situation is unique, although there are some commonalities.All enterprises must decide WHAT TO MANUFACTURE AND MARKET. Do not select a product or service that will affect those of other local businesses. Also, the product or service must contribute to the community and have a viable market. This process is an opportunity to integrate social studies, English, science and math as students must analyze the community, develop "survey" instruments, design one or more studies and process the data.

PRODUCING THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE. A constant tension in many enterprise-based learning experiences is balancing the needs of production (driven by demand) and the learning that is the core of the program. A middle school in St. Paul, Minnesota, produces small wood products that it wholesales to florists. The teacher has developed a cadre of retirees who like kids and have a fondness for woodworking. This "contingent" workforce comes in at night and on weekends to fill the production gaps when demand for the product becomes too high. A spin-off benefit is that many of these adults mentor the kids in the program. At a vocational center in Colorado, the school-based auto repair shop has a contract that stipulates the car will be ready when it has been repaired correctly. This might take two to three times as long as a regular repair shop. In both examples, instructors have found a proper balance between learning and production.

PRICING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. You must balance pricing against the goals of the enterprise. If you are trying to meet the need for low-cost, quality child care, for example, charging market rates will defeat your purpose. Your goal must be balanced against the need to pay the bills of the enterprise. Determining prices is an excellent opportunity to integrate math into the enterprise.

DISTRIBUTION. Creating a system of distribution so the product or service is accessible to the customer is another consideration. Often the school facility might be the most appropriate venue for distribution. Many restaurant operations are found in schools. However, the typical 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day is not consistent with the real life of most communities. …

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