Higher Education and Work Force Development:
Transition to Entrepreneurship and Employment
August 25, 2011- 11:30 a.m.
||Robert McKinley, University of Texas – San Antonio
C. Howard Williams, American Institutes of Research
||Gary Bittner, USAID Office of Education
This session addressed Goal 2 of the Education Strategy as it pertains to small and medium enterprise (SME) and vocational education centers (VECs). Discussions during this session focused on lessons learned, government engagement, and sustainability of each program presented.
Robert McKinley from the University of Texas at San Antonio presented an overview of small business development centers (SBDCs) and the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which they support in partnership with Higher Education for Development (HED). The SBDCs offer services in business training, management and technical assistance consulting, applied business research, and small and medium enterprise policy advocacy. The SBDCs also promote economic stability and growth for communities and regions through institutional and professional capacity building. There are currently 1,100 SBDCs established across the diverse marketplace in the United States. These centers are based on an extension model of co-investment where every dollar contributed by the U.S. Small Business Administration is matched by the program to reduce fragmentation, combine resources and promote partnerships with local stakeholders. This in turn creates transparency and accountability, which is sustainable long-term. Examples of successful case studies of SBDCs in Mexico, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic were referenced.
Howard Williams from American Institutes of Research focused on a vocational education project (VEP) in Georgia. The project aimed to increase the supply of graduates in tourism and the construction trade from seven vocational education centers (VEC) in Georgia, secure employment for VEP graduates and improve the sustainability of the VECs through public-private partnerships. These VECs are fully supported by the government, though they are intended to eventually become fully autonomous and self-financed. The transition, however, is still incomplete as it is still government-financed and decentralization is moving at a slow pace. VEP accomplishments include: internships with prospective employers, new curriculum for vocational education, new admission requirements, and achieving an employment rate over 60% upon graduation. In addition, the VEP produced seven construction trade manuals as well as a tourism manual.
Key take away points include the importance of small business development centers which offer an array of services and promote economic stability and growth in many communities and regions through institutional and professional capacity building. Similarly, the small business development centers also foster transparency and accountability improving sustainability over time. Public-private partnerships played an important role in both projects.