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A school-based enterprise is a simulated or actual business/industry conducted by a school. It replicates a specific business or industry, and is a learning experience that provides direct links between students, their curriculum and the world of work.


Many schools do not have the business and industry base to provide sufficient opportunities for students to gain work-based experience. A school-based enterprise can be created to fill that void.

The School-based enterprise should be designed to lead a student to a productive career; and the school programs of study must have the course capacity to provide the learning needed by the student to become successfully employed. In a school-based enterprise, the student's vocational courses and academic courses integrate around the school-based enterprise.

Developing a school-based enterprise can be a creative challenge to a school, department, teachers, and students. Large scale endeavors will probably need the input and assistance from more than one person to be successful. A collaborative agreement, with local business/industry, or well organized advisory committees would be helpful. The school-based enterprise must be oriented and run by students. Teachers serve as advisors, but not chief executive officers.

Some school-based enterprises operate like regular small businesses, letting students apply the academic and vocational content they have learned in school. A School-based enterprise can also give students real practice in entrepreneurship, accounting, budgeting, cash-flow management, marketing, inventory control, and business/industry/technical skills. Students in school-based enterprises experience generic work skills in problem solving, communication, interpersonal relations, and learning how to learn in the context of work.


  1. Assess community needs
    • Characteristics of the community
    • Related business opportunities
    • Potential customers
    • Possible products/services

  2. Define the product or service
    • Student and teacher interest
    • Possible ventures and their feasibility
    • Decide and commit

  3. Build the Support of Key People
    • Teachers
    • Students
    • Parents
    • Business/Industrial community

  4. Establish a Structure for the school-based enterprise
    • Basic organization
    • Curriculum
    • Training and education of students and teachers
    • Scheduling
    • Facilities, equipment and supplies
    • Finances

  5. Develop a Written Business Plan
    • Executive summary
    • Description of the industry
    • The market
    • Plan of operation
    • Financial plan
    • Organizational structure
    • Schedule
    • Community benefits
    • An education and training plan
    • Appendices

  6. Implement production and services
    • Equipment and supplies
    • Workforce and their role
    • Produce products or services
    • Sales force and sales strategies
    • Marketing the products
    • Channel/methods to distribute the products or services
    • Maintain budgets
    • Maintain inventory
    • Deliver products and/or services

  7. Design and implement curriculum activities
    • Requiring integration of academic and vocational courses
    • Encouraging all students to participate in school-based enterprise and related courses
    • Involving counselors in the school-based enterprise and programming of students
    • Deciding what students should know and be able to do
    • Bringing business/industry experts in to advise on curriculum
    • Incorporating cooperative learning and team work activities
    • Teaching problem solving


Production Work Handbook
Handbook for Administering Production Work Activities in Secondary Vocational Educational Programs.
(pdf, 184kb)

Business/Industry Field Trip
Cooperative Education
Entrepreneurial Experiences
Job Shadowing
School-Based Enterprise
Service Learning