The 12-county area that spans northeast to southeast Ohio along the Appalachian rim carries a rich history of entrepreneurs—from Rufus Putnam, who led the expedition to Ohio’s first settlement in Marietta, to Colonel Ebenezer Zane, who built Zane’s Trace, a major early road through the Northwest Territory, to John D. Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil in northeast Ohio in 1870. Today, a consortium of 31 education, community, and business partners is working to build on this entrepreneurial past to inspire future generations of entrepreneurs to transform the region’s economy.
Like many parts of the country, eastern Ohio has faced challenges with unemployment—10 of the 12 counties in the region have a higher unemployment rate than Ohio’s average—degree attainment, and “brain drain,” as talented young people leave for jobs elsewhere. According to State Impact, the rate at which college graduates leave the state for jobs is higher in northeast and southeast Ohio than the national average.
To address these challenges, the Young Entrepreneurs Consortium (YEC) was formed as an innovative model for community engagement and increasing the pipeline of young entrepreneurs in the state. The YEC is comprised of 12 school districts, three career and technical centers, four higher education partners, and 12 business/community partners, serving more than 26,500 students—equal to the fourth largest school district in Ohio. Funded through a grant from Ohio’s Straight A Fund, the consortium’s goal is to increase student achievement and encourage and nurture important life skills associated with an entrepreneurial mindset—collaboration, communication, problem-solving, creativity, and self-discipline.
“The Young Entrepreneurs Consortium has provided local businesses the structure and means to collaborate with community youth in a mentorship, educational, and collaborative fashion…The project forces everyone to reassess how students prepare for their future.”
—Patty Main, Curriculum Director, Sandy Valley Local Schools
With communications and professional learning support from Battelle for Kids, the YEC is building a robust education-to-employment model, impacting grades 6–14. The Consortium’s Entrepreneurship Pathway is aligned to all 16 of Ohio’s career fields, including agriculture and environmental services, arts and communication, business and administrative services, engineering and science technologies, health science, and manufacturing technologies. It is available to all students in the 12 districts and three career and technical centers served by the YEC and embraces four core components designed to prepare students for success in a global economy.
In grades 6–8, the traditional educational paradigm will be shifted by merging career and technical education with college preparation curriculum. The YEC is leveraging problem-based learning models to expose students to several career and technical pathways, including prominent industries like energy, engineering, and healthcare, with a unique focus on entrepreneurship.
In high school, students will participate in dual enrollment courses, allowing them to receive high school and college credit. Through a customized entrepreneurship program at Stark State College, students can complete as many as 68 hours in the Entrepreneurship Pathway and attain an associate degree (through grade 14). In addition, students have access to work-based or experiential learning opportunities through business partnerships,including Junior Achievement of Ohio and Believe in Ohio. An entrepreneurship summer camp, hosted by Marietta College, is also available to students.
An important component of the YEC is the partnership with higher education institutions to coordinate the credentialing of educators to teach dual enrollment courses to students. In partnership with the University of Akron and Kent State University, the YEC has developed programs that offer accessible online master’s degree programs in its priority content areas of English, mathematics, and business. The districts in the consortium will share teachers by leveraging an enhanced technological infrastructure with more bandwidth, better services, and smarter devices that support a digital, blended, and online interactive curriculum.
“It is impressive to walk into classrooms and see total interaction and engagement. The technology has also supported the problem-based learning units and has enhanced the learning outcomes.”
—Holly Mastrine, Southeast Local Schools
In the first year of implementation, the YEC has already seen a significant impact on students and educators, including:
The Consortium is committed to encouraging entrepreneurship as a promising pathway for Ohio's students and replicating this work statewide and beyond. To learn more about the Consortium's work and impact in year one, download the whitepaper, The Material Out of Which Countries Are Made.
Learn more at www.youngmindsgreatfutures.org.