In order to provide students with the expertise and skills needed to begin their path to entrepreneurship, many public high schools and middle schools have teamed with the national nonprofit known as, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). (Photo by nfte.com)

By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
msayles@afro.com

In 2021, Baltimore City Public Schools’ Office of College and Career Readiness released its latest strategic plan, which emphasized the importance of students having access to work-based learning and exposure to avenues for in-demand jobs that yield a living wage. 

The plan was forged from 120 stakeholders meetings that included teachers, students, parents, business leaders, nonprofit organizations and politicians. One of the key takeaways: Students want to learn more about entrepreneurship. 

“One of the biggest things we got back, especially from the students, was a desire to be entrepreneurs and to learn how to do that,” said Kumasi Vines, director of career readiness at City Schools. “Looking forward, we know there’s an appetite for learning about entrepreneurship from our students, so we’re looking to integrate that direct instruction in entrepreneurship across more of our programming and then also increase access for other students for more direct entrepreneurship training into the future.”

As director of career readiness, Vines goal is to  prepare City Schools students for securing high-wage, in-demand jobs. He helps students choose which path to take after high school, whether attending a four-year college, going straight to the workforce or entering an apprenticeship program. 

Through City Schools’ work-based learning activities, students have the opportunity to engage in job shadowing and hear from career advocates, many of whom are business owners. Aside from discussing their experiences as entrepreneurs, they walk the audience through the skills, training and schooling needed to start and scale their businesses, according to Vines. 

City Schools choose guest speakers who come from a variety of backgrounds, so students have the ability to see themselves in the individuals and forge stronger connections. 

A number of public high schools and middle schools in Baltimore City also partner with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a national educational nonprofit, to provide students with the expertise that’s needed to devise and launch a start-up, according to Vines. 

In addition to direct entrepreneurial instruction, students also participate in activities designed to hone public speaking, organizational and presentation-building skills and boost their confidence. 

“With any of these businesses, you have to build out a pathway for how your business is going to grow and thrive, and the thought is that the students will also make a connection to themselves in how they can build their pathway to thrive as they become adults and understand what it takes in order to get there,” said Vines. 

City Schools’ Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways offer instruction in disciplines that include, business management, finance, human resources, cosmetology, computer science and technology manufacturing. 

According to Vines, mastering a trade can provide the foundation for students who want to launch their own business ventures. 

“I think the idea of an entrepreneur just waking up one day and saying, ‘I’m going to start a business,’ is not reality. I think it begins with having a certain skill set and then having that ability, access to opportunity and motivation to start your own business,” said Vines. “We just want to make sure our students understand that, yes, we talk about careers, or college, or pre-apprenticeship, but entrepreneurship is also an option and just help them understand a pathway toward that.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America corps member. 

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