The West Virginia Community and Technical College System is stepping up to provide a much-needed educational program in West Virginia: entrepreneurialism.
The CTC system announced last week it will be the first college system in the nation to wholly commit to cultivating entrepreneurial culture and mindsets in classrooms, campuses and communities throughout the state.
“This means developing the skills and mindset of an entrepreneur will become a core part of the community college experience in West Virginia, opening students up to new skills and opportunities as they prepare for their futures,” the organization said in a news release.
The effort is part of a new collaborative project with the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative supported by the Kauffman Foundation.
“As a system, it is our job to cultivate education that meets the needs of our students and our state economy,” said CTCS Chancellor Sarah Tucker “This partnership is an opportunity for us as a community and technical college system — and as a state — to become national leaders in educating future generations of entrepreneur at this scale.”
The news last week came just a few days before Wallet Hub, a financial services website that issues weekly rankings on economic issues, listed West Virginia as 50th among the U.S. states in business startups per capita and 50th in average growth in the number of small businesses.
Entrepreneurship has long been low in West Virginia, perhaps because there have been so many natural resource-based jobs. Plus years ago, numerous large manufacturing plants around the state paid good money to high school graduates, so creating one’s own career wasn’t necessary for all but the most independent-minded folks.
Syndicated columnist Robert J. Samuelson noted last fall (“Are entrepreneurs a dying breed?” Sept. 30) that regions dominated by a few big employers tend to lack a “startup culture” because they depend too much on mega-employers. But that time is largely past.
The partnership between the community and technical colleges and Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative came through a competitive grant process. West Virginia won because all nine of its member colleges committed to entrepreneurial activities and training for faculty to support their students and their communities.
“The world has changed in ways that now require all students to learn how to think like an entrepreneur,” said ELI Founder Gary Schoeniger. “Whether they work within an established organization, join the gig economy, or start a business of their own, the ... entrepreneurship program empowers students with a mindset that will enable them to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world.”
As welcome news as it is for the state’s community and technical colleges to begin to fill the void of what little entrepreneurial training there is in West Virginia, let’s not be satisfied to leave it at that.
Entrepreneurialism and the style of thinking it requires needs to be cultivated at a young age, starting at middle school grades, if not earlier.
“Every city and town should work on teaching enterprise,” Daily Mail columnist Mark Sadd wrote two years ago (“The state of enterprise,” April 18, 2016).
Congratulations to the state’s community and technical college system in taking an early step to transform West Virginia to a place where new graduates don’t necessarily seek a job, but learn to create their own.