Communities across North Carolina are successfully incorporating youth entrepreneurship into their economic development strategies. Community organizations and educators are partnering to offer youth entrepreneurship camps that build entrepreneurial skills in youth. This article shows examples of how communities are recognizing the importance of youth involvement in economic development.
Many youth between the ages of 9 and 18 attend youth entrepreneurship camps across North Carolina. A variety of camp activities include hearing from local entrepreneurs, taking part in hands-on activities to learn about their community, assessing their own skills, and creating a business idea. During the camp, youth complete activities that build creativity, teamwork, leadership, and financial literacy skills.
A remarkable trait of many camps is the partnering that takes place across the community to make the camps a reality. Several community partnerships include Community Colleges, Public Schools, local 4-H Cooperative Extension, and local Boys and Girls Clubs. Many camps are held on Community College campuses to help expose youth to the college environment.
From the very beginning, camp participants are encouraged to “think like an entrepreneur” by being creative and taking risks. The business teams are encouraged to think about what their community needs, what they do well, and what interests them. The teams quickly become competitive about who has the most creative and sometimes most outrageous business ideas. Unfailingly, the adults who serve as judges for the final presentations are impressed by the creativity of the ideas, the quality of the presentations, and the engagement of the students.
Many communities make the decision to select a theme for their entrepreneurship camp and encourage students to create a business around the theme. One theme camp was delivered by a partnership that included Carteret Community College and the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum. With funding from the Conservation Fund, the College and Museum created an entrepreneurship camp that taught students about the heritage and history of Harker’s Island and the local community. Campers created businesses that reflected this heritage, including a tool that would help boats stuck on sand bars, and a nature center that would offer guided tours. One student commented, “My favorite part was learning what it took to make a business and manage a checkbook.”
Many counties in western North Carolina are offering youth entrepreneurship camps to teach youth leadership and problem solving skills. Communities are beginning to understand the importance of partnerships and collaboration. Wilkes Community College partners with 4-H Cooperative Extension to offer Youth Entrepreneurship Camps in Wilkes and Ashe Counties. The camps combine entrepreneurship with growing industries in the region including advanced materials and sustainable energy. Students took part in a presentation by Martin Marietta Materials and learned about how composite materials are developed and tested. They were able to handle and test materials such as the blast proof panels that protect U.S. troops. Through the theme camps students were encouraged to think about developing businesses that capitalize on the assets on their community.
Several counties are working together to offer a regional youth entrepreneurship camp. Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College offers the Young Entrepreneurial Scholars (YES!) Camp for high-school students and this year started a Middle School Academy Camp for Middle School students. The Young Entrepreneurial Scholars (YES!) Camp requires interested students to submit a camp application and recommendations. Students who participate enter the camp with their own business idea that they hope to turn into a real enterprise one day.
Many communities across North Carolina are making the decision to include youth entrepreneurship in their economic development strategy. Youth entrepreneurship camps build on the trend and teach young people how to think like entrepreneurs and create a community that encourages entrepreneurship. Students learn about entrepreneurship as a career option, and learn entrepreneurial skills that will benefit them whatever their career choice. Youth entrepreneurship plays a role in economic development as community leaders learn tangible ways to make it part of their larger strategy. Entire regions will benefit through the creation of more businesses and a better trained workforce.
Arlene Childers works for a non-profit organization dedicated to helping bring entrepreneurship and small business creation to North Carolina. Arlene teaches small business classes and seminars across the state. She is currently enrolled in the Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship Program at Western Carolina University. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2011 by Arlene Childers.
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