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


Many communities do not have the business and industry base to provide sufficient opportunities for students to gain work-based learning experiences. A school-based enterprise can 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 career 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 career/technical 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 develop 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
    • School administrators
    • 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/services
    • 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 career/technical 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


revised March 1997

The Production Work Handbook was developed to provide leadership and direction to local education agencies (LEAs). This publication contains definitions, rules, regulations, guidelines, and administrative and instructional suggestions that are intended to be of assistance to LEAs planning, implementing, and evaluating, production work activities as part of their educational programs.

The information in this document is not offered as, and should not be cited as legal advice. It is also not intended to substitute for the advice of attorneys who advise or represent individuals or institutions with an interest in participating in work-based learning activities. The information in this handbook is based upon laws that were current at the time of its development and revision.


Related North Carolina General Assembly statutes.

  • GS. 115C-160(2) - Definition of the term production work.
  • GS. 115C-159 - Part 2 Vocational and Technical Education Production Work Activities. -- Statement of purpose.
  • GS. 115C-161 - Duties of the State Board of Education towards production work.
  • GS. 115C-162 - Use of proceeds derived from production work.
  • GS. 115C-165 - Advisory committee on production work activities.