School-based enterprises in urban public high schools: Responding to the school to employment conundrum

Garry Moses Keel, Fordham University


Business leaders, school administrators, and government officials have long been concerned with the number of students graduating from urban public high schools lacking requisite work skills to compete for jobs, making their transition from school to employment a difficult one. The problem is compounded by an employment environment within urban America that has become increasingly variable and specialized. An answer to this conundrum may lie with teaching inner-city youngsters the virtues of business ownership. Entrepreneurship training has been touted as a way for students to learn relevant work skills and how to create a job should none exist. There are many ways in which high schools might promote entrepreneurship. One method gaining serious consideration is through school-based enterprises. In this arrangement, students work in a school-sponsored business learning basic management theory and practicing its applications in a real-life, hands-on business located at the school. This research explored three school-based enterprises in each of three large urban public high schools in New Jersey. Interviews were conducted with the student store participants, the store managers, and building supervisors to determine if students were learning and practicing both relevant work skills and entrepreneurship. The final analysis seemed to suggest that on the one hand, students tended to develop and engage in work skills that will be useful in the future. During the interviews, the students pointed to enhanced ability to communicate with others, work in teams, think creatively, and practice mathematical computations working in their respective stores. On the other hand, while entrepreneurship and small business development were often mentioned by the store managers and building administrators as two of the main purposes for having the enterprise, these concepts were rarely mentioned or discussed by the students. The students typically worked in the store as front-line workers rather than as owners or managers. They were given little opportunity to make a correlation between their job in the store and small business development.

Subject Area

Business education|Vocational education|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Keel, Garry Moses, "School-based enterprises in urban public high schools: Responding to the school to employment conundrum" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9938906.