WANTED: Entrepreneurs

lemonadeI have not completely digested (“ingested” is probably the more appropriate term) the paper, “When Reforms Don’t Transform:  Reflections on institutional reforms in the Department of Education“, written by Ma. Cynthia Rose B. Bautista, Allan B.I. Bernardo and Dina Ocampo–and I intend to do so–when I encountered the big word “trifocalization” of basic education by EDCOM by splitting the education function among three government agencies, to wit: DepEd, CHED and TESDA.  CHED is a complex creature for those who have the wherewithal and mental capability to go through the rigors of a college education and beyond.  So I looked at TESDA, specifically, their training and curriculum offerings because, well, they provide training, or the acquisition of basic skills, to survive.  Those offerings are fine, except I was horrified to see that there’s nothing that binds them together to create wealth and employment right at home where we have all these sorts of socio-economic problems. One gets the sense that those offerings cater foremost to the OFW or call centers.

The one thing missing–and arguably a very important ingredient–is an organized, rigorous curricular program in entrepreneurship.

(Of course I know a trained entrepreneur/manager is missing–and I experience this frequently–when I go to one of these big Filipino restaurant chains wanting to put in an order for a takeout, when after half an hour standing in front of the takeout booth trying hard to make eye contact with the clerk, my presence hasn’t been acknowledged by the clerk there because she’s busy having a boisterous personal chat with someone on her cell phone or she’s just putting together stray pages of the menu.)

Miller College of Business (Ball State University), one of the top schools in the United States offering an Entrepreneurship Program, provides truly a unique opportunity for students to prepare academically for the challenges involved in new venture creation, small business management, and corporate entrepreneurship.” Now, isn’t that what the Philippines is in dire need of to make use of its vast human and natural resources?

In addition to the requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Management, the Miller College of Business offers the following courses specifically designed for the Entrepreneurship major:

  • Small Business Ventures:  students are introduced to the characteristics of small business enterprises.
  • Entrepreneurship: students examine entrepreneurship theory with emphasis on all aspects of initiation, growth, and development.
  • IS and Technology for Entrepreneurial Ventures:  students study e-commerce, information systems and software, and various technologies integral to developing a new venture.
  • Entrepreneurial Ethics:  students examine the ethical side of enterprise.  All of the facets of personal integrity and organization responsibility are covered.
  • Creative Financing for New Ventures:  students examine the various sources of capital available for business startups and review financial documents.
  • Entrepreneurial Consulting Practicum:  teams of students, along with a professor, consult businesses… for the purposes of providing effective solutions to actual challenges.
  • New Venture Creation (Advanced Entrepreneurship):  students develop an in-depth business plan for a new venture of their own.  The plan is presented and evaluated by a board of professionals in the field of creating and financing new venture startups.

I’m aware that the schools under TESDA do not now offer a degree program but here’s an opportunity for progressive change.  We could even aspire beyond the undergraduate entrepreneur program.   In fact, Miller College of Business’ graduate program (MBA in Entrepreneurship) offers a curricular example.  In addition to the requirements for a Master in Business Administration degree, the following courses are specifically designed for the Entrepreneurship concentration:

  • Entrepreneurship Theory: Research-based examination into the evolution of entrepreneurship, the initiation and development of new ventures and the current trends in entrepreneurial growth.
  • Corporate Entrepreneurship: Graduate-level in-depth study of the strategies in corporate entrepreneurship and innovation that are becoming significant in major corporations.
  • Entrepreneurial Strategy:A capstone policy course designed to review current venture strategies and examine the current state of the entrepreneurial environment.
  • Entrepreneurial Applied Research Project: An applied graduate level research report is proposed, developed, and implemented by each student.
  • Entrepreneurship Dynamics Laboratory: An interactive environment where emerging enterprises work together with students on strategic perspectives and business plan development.

In the case of the Philippines, the 40-minute-per-day “Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan” from Grade 4 through Grade 6 and the 240-minute-per-week “Technology & Livelihood Education” from first year through fourth year at the secondary level should be tweaked somewhat to have the student learn some survival and entrepreneurial skills.  Of course, not everyone has the disposition and the inner drive to be an entrepreneur.  It helps to have a way of finding out if one does have what it takes to be one.  The elementary and secondary exposure to “Pangkabuhayan” and “Livelihood“, respectively, should dovetail beautifully into an entrepreneurship program should the student decide to go further afield and potentially wind up becoming a pillar of the business community.  Ever thought this one could put a stop to the brain drain or rectify our unsavory image of being the collective “atsay” of the world?

Multi-billionaire Warren Buffett is probably an atypical example of an entrepreneur.  In “The Snowball:  Warren Buffett and the Business of Life“, biographer Alice Schroeder writes:

“The first few cents Warren Buffett ever earned came from selling packs of chewing gum.  And from the day he started selling–at six years of age–he showed an unyielding attitude toward customers that revealed much about his later style.

“I had this little green tray, which had five different areas in it.  I’m pretty sure my aunt Edie gave me that.  It had containers for five different brands of gum, Juicy Fruit, Spearmint, Doublemint, and so on.  I would buy packs of gum from my grandfather and go around door to door in the neighborhood selling this stuff.  I used to do that in the evening, largely.

“I remember a woman named Virginia Macoubrie saying, ‘I’ll take one stick of Juicy Fruit.’  I said, ‘We don’t break up packs of gum’–I mean, I’ve got my principles.  I still, to this day, remember Mrs. Macoubrie saying she wanted one stick.  No, they were sold only in five-stick packs.  They were a nickel, and she wanted to spend a penny with me.”

Making a sale was tempting, but not tempting enough to change his mind.  If he sold one stick to Virginia Macoubrie, he would have four sticks left to sell to somebody else, not worth the work or the risk.  From each whole pack, he made two cents profit.  He could hold those pennies, weighty and solid, in his palm.  They became the first snowflakes in a snowball of money to come.”

I mean, I’ve got my principles,” Warren Buffett insisted.  Those “principled” entrepreneur types, I repeat, are the kind of bold risk takers who’d create wealth and employment for our country.  They are the ones on whose broad shoulders lie the will and energy to fix a lot of our socio-economic problems–NOT our politicians or intellectuals.  Let’s tweak the educational system, more specifically TESDA, to train and produce more of them.

Quite frankly, I sincerely believe that’s the reform that will help transform the Philippine landscape in so many ways. CHED’s output–like you and me–what can you say?  We think, talk, dream, bahala-na too much and don’t do enough; we’re worth a dime a dozen.  Just step outside and go ask a Chinese or Indian businessperson.

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