Program promotes education on small business ownership

By Lesley Rogers

NIU students who want to become self-sufficient and start their own small businesses should look into NIU’s Institute for Entrepreneurship Education.

NIU/IIEE educates teachers on how to teach students about entrepreneurship. “It is an institute created by the Illinois legislature, NIU and the friends of small business. Three sources—education, business and government—came together to create this program,” said IIEE Executive Director Tom Murray.

NIU offers two graduate courses in entrepreneurship. These include business education (method of entrepreneurship) and management. “We teach techniques and skills of starting a small business, and we teach teachers at elementary through college levels across the state on how they can educate students about entrepreneurship,” Murray said.

Murray stresses the importance of students learning how to support themselves by starting their own business.

“It is essential that our young people learn about entrepreneurship in order to survive in the 21st century,” Murray said. “There are not going to be the parent companies that take employers in for life.”

One goal of IIEE is to change education and the way in which scholastic aptitude is measured. ACT and SAT test scores do not measure students’ ability to function in the “real world,” Murray said.

“Are you able to start your own business with the tools you have been taught? Not likely,” he said. “Students are not qualified to work because basic skills are missing. Our job is to make people aware of their place in economic society by starting a small business or becoming an employee of a small business.”

NIU/IIEE is helping Chicago State University develop a similar program through financial aid from the Coleman Foundation. The program is designed to increase entrepreneurship awareness to at-risk inner-city Chicago youths.

The new program will provide teacher training in entrepreneurship principles and offer practical business application through the creation of in-school businesses.

“Most of the new jobs are not in large corporations, but small businesses. Most students are not prepared to own their own business,” Murray said. “Everyone should be responsible for their own economic well being.”