Entrepreneurship is Alive and Well at Community Colleges
Entrepreneurship is alive and well at community colleges
By Bentley E. Wallace, Ed.D.
Dean, UA – Pulaski Tech School of Technical and Professional Studies
Entrepreneurship education thrives at community colleges in many different shapes and forms, and at the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College (UA-PTC) entrepreneurship is front and center in six key areas. From supporting students and local businesses to structured supports for business expansion in the region, the state’s flagship two-year college is blazing an entrepreneurial trail like no other.
Curriculum and Instruction
UA-PTC recognizes the role of entrepreneurship in the local, state, and global economy and places a priority on entrepreneurship education in getting students ready for a business career. Through the college’s multiple Entrepreneurship certificate and degree programs, students begin with general business courses such as Accounting, Business Communications, Business Ethics, and Legal Environment of Business. With that foundation of core business knowledge, students then move into Entrepreneurship courses, which provide specific opportunities to explore how innovation and creativity can lead to opportunity, with topics including Intro to Entrepreneurship, Markets and Consumers, Professional Selling/Advertising, Feasibility and Funding, and Small Business Management. At the end of their degree path, students are prepared to transfer and pursue a bachelor’s degree or launch a venture of their own.
Innovation and Maker Spaces
UA-PTC offers students and faculty multiple labs and facilities with technology well-suited to the exploration of concepts large and small. High-speed connectivity through the ARE-ON system, additive and reductive manufacturing systems, robotics, film production capabilities, and performance spaces all provide a variety of opportunities for creativity and collaboration to emerge and thrive.
UA-PTC fully understands its role in the ecosystem of business retention and expansion. For current and prospective employers in the region, the primary consideration for business expansion is an available and adequately skilled workforce. The college regularly collaborates with area chambers of commerce and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to attract and retain high-quality employers by providing timely and relevant workforce education in all sectors, including with entrepreneurial businesses, large and small.
Partnerships with Innovators
UA-PTC recognizes that the college is only one small, albeit critical, piece in the entrepreneurship system in the state and region. Partnerships such as the Student Entrepreneur Education Collective (SEEC) program with The Venture Center in Little Rock, provide a conduit for students, faculty, business leaders, innovators, equity investors, mentors, start-ups, and serial entrepreneurs to engage in meaningful and impactful dialogue around all aspects of Entrepreneurship. This innovative, bilateral approach to expanding knowledge and confidence highlights the importance of proper support and guidance in an entrepreneurial environment.
Moving at the Speed of Business
When local businesses, manufacturers, healthcare providers, tech firms, and governmental agencies decide to launch new product lines, expand into new sectors, increase productivity and profit, and improve safety, they need to upskill current employees and train new employees. And they need to do it quickly and efficiently. UA-PTC, through its Business and Industry Center, provides a space for short-term customized training, innovation, and skills enhancement at a pace that meets the employer’s timeline, 24/7.
Required Entrepreneurial Culture
Finally, colleges are subject to global and regional economic realities, just like any other organization, private or public. Challenges such as funding shortfalls, rising healthcare costs, and increasing retirement rates require that UA-PTC be a nimble, lean, and productive business unit while keeping student success as our constant focal point. To do that, the college manages finances conservatively, invests wisely, and takes calculated risks, all in a style of entrepreneurship that supports a mission dedicated to enabling individuals to develop to their fullest potential. Educators and administrators must co-mingle instruction with innovation: when that is on display, all students at the college benefit from learning in a purposeful entrepreneurial culture.