A second school track needed

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

It is time the citizens, educators and students throughout the Greater Peoria Area band together and create a new educational mind set.

We need an educational track designed to foster this area’s future Bill Gates, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs. 

Peoria, partially, has the right idea with the charter devoted to math, science and technology coming online for District 150.

Peoria and other area communities have high school programs dedicated to teaching our youth about careers in health care and other employment sectors.

Let us face it — schools are, at their most basic, repositories designed to turn out young people able to become valuable employees. Caterpillar, the hospitals and other business concerns were behind the charter school effort because they want to see District 150 turn out students prepared to be employees in these high-skill jobs. That is as it should be.

But, we also need to be looking at turning out a different set of students — those prepared to be entrepreneurs.

Jim McConoughey, CEO of the Heartland Partnership, said recently that health care is and will remain the Greater Peoria Area’s biggest employer.

He said, however, all those jobs are not found in Peoria’s three hospitals. A number of the jobs tied to health care are in small businesses that serve the hospitals. Those small businesses are run by entrepreneurs.

That leads to the question: Are entrepreneurs born or created?  That is a hard question to answer. But, the answer really does not matter, because even if one is born to be an entrepreneur, he or she needs to develop particular skills. 

What District 150 needs to consider is a charter school focused on developing entrepreneurial skills or at least a high school program designed to foster entrepreneurial spirit.

Robert Kiyosaki, an educational entrepreneur and founder of the financial education-based Rich Dad Co., made the argument for this last month in USA Today.

“Today, it is time not for a ‘New Deal,’ but a ‘New Mission,’” Kiyosaki wrote.

“America’s schools need to take a page from the businesses that have been created by entrepreneurs over the past decades ... but the path toward entrepreneurship is often the road less traveled  in America’s schools.”

Kiyosaki concluded that the high unemployment rate illustrates America has too many employees and not enough entrepreneurs. It is an interesting perspective.

If all our schools turn out is potential employees, who are they all going to work for?

If we create skills in those students who are interested in being their own boss, we are creating a potential economic bonanza for the area.

We need people who are going to create jobs, not just fill them. 

It is a proven fact it costs far less to retain an existing business than to entice a new one to re-locate.

We need, and should demand, a new mind set in education designed to cradle and nurture the entrepreneurial spirit.

With such an effort, we could even make great strides in the ability to re-build the endangered middle class.

We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Let the conversation begin.