THE BLOG
02/07/2014 03:22 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2014

Community Colleges Support Entrepreneurs

Small businesses account for 64% of the net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011 or 11.8 million of the 18.5 million net new jobs, according the Small Business Administration. Yet the SBA also points out that after five years many of these businesses fail. Entrepreneurs are vitally important to a regional economy and community colleges are in the vanguard of providing services to support them. These schools have a long history of contributing to workforce development. They have expanded this effort to include entrepreneurial development and have been extremely successful.

The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship maintains that community colleges have three key competitive advantages when it comes to working with entrepreneurs.

One, community colleges are skilled at experiential learning, which is essential to encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset. Support staff and faculty understand that entrepreneurs learn from experience and tailor coursework to meet this need. Second, community colleges are co-immersed deeply in their entrepreneurial ecosystems. Their faculty members are often entrepreneurs. They are already working closely with local businesses and can draw on these alliances to help other entrepreneurs.

Finally, community colleges are flexible when it comes to creating coursework in direct response to the needs of the local business community. If there is a local company that makes wind turbines, there will be a course at the community college that addresses how to repair them.

The Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech in Indiana offers four academic tracks: Certificate, Technical Certificate, Associates of Applied Science and Non-Credit, all designed to address the different needs of entrepreneurs. Foundation courses include managing personal finance, the fundamentals of public speaking, financial accounting and introduction to microcomputers through accounting systems applications. The two-year degree program includes a business development course for creating a business plan. Many students opt for the two semester Certificate in Entrepreneurship that provides aspiring entrepreneurs with the fundamental skills they'll need to own and operate a business.

Other community colleges have established partnerships with local business such as Wake Tech in North Carolina which partnered with Wells Fargo in 2010 to create the Wake Tech-Wells Fargo Center for Entrepreneurship. The Center pays special attention to women, Hispanic and other minority business owners by offering scholarships to those who need help getting their business off the ground. Wells Fargo believes that if communities prosper, its banks will prosper as well.

Bunker Hill Community College in Boston runs the Community Center for Entrepreneurship as an outreach site of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center. In addition to coursework, the college provides an entrepreneurship library, referral services for financial assistance and minigrants, free seminars and a student Entrepreneurship Club.

Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska offers coursework that emphasizes the skills an entrepreneur needs to know and attracts those interested in starting a business as well as assistance to those looking for advice on how to grow their business. Although the program was started in 2006, it is now the state's largest educational provider of entrepreneurship studies.

I believe that helping entrepreneurs is one of the most important roles of a community college. We have the experience of working with small businesses to develop coursework to help train their employees. Our faculty members come from the community and are often small business owners themselves. They know exactly what it takes to succeed. We also have relationships with local banks and know what they are looking for in a business plan.

So whether it is launching a food truck, licensing a daycare center or guiding a tech start-up, community colleges know how to nurture a budding entrepreneur and give him or her the tools to succeed.