Bringing Hands-On Entrepreneurship Education to High School Students
“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand”. This is a famous Chinese proverb that describes how human learns. Most of us would agree that the greatest learning is mostly achieved through real life practice. Reading, sitting in a classroom workshop, and watching someone do it is not enough without actually practicing what we heard or learned.
GE takes this philosophy in the way it develops its talents. One of the learning and development opportunities that GE provides for its employees globally is opportunities to take on assignments that is beyond their current capacity, or stretched assignments. This way, the talents can get hands-on experience of leading complex tasks beyond what they do on a daily basis, thus enhancing and expanding the capacity of the talents to take on more advanced positions or roles.
This is why GE Indonesia, supported by GE Foundation, is partnering with Prestasi Junior Indonesia, a member of the Junior Achievement (JA) and Young Enterprise federation based out of Boston, to provide hands-on entrepreneurship education to high school and vocational school students in Jakarta, West Java and Yogyakarta – areas where GE operates.
The Student Company program that is being implemented by GE Indonesia and PJI allows students to get a hands-on experience of running a business, starting from setting up the organization, making business plan, developing products, marketing and selling the product, and liquidating the company at the end of the cycle. During this cycle, students will receive regular mentoring from GE volunteers, and will have a chance to visit GE office to see how mentors from various business functions perform their daily task in GE.
This hands-on learning opportunity is very valuable in the students’ learning as it allows the students to experience what it is like to manage a company and work in a team to achieve the same goal. These are critical skills that they need after they graduate and enter the workforce or even in many cases establish companies of their own.
In addition, students will also have the opportunity to compete against other Student Companies in Indonesia, that are sponsored by other companies, as well as internationally.
The results so far have exceeded expectations. Since 2007, GE Indonesia and PJI have trained 12,500 students from high schools and vocational schools in Jakarta, Bogor and Yogyakarta and more than 680 GE Volunteers have mentored 21 classes and participated in other partnership activities.
In 2012, a GE-mentored school from Sleman in Yogyakarta won the PJI-run National Student Company competition and participated in the JA-run Asia Pacific competition in Kuala Lumpur.
In 2014, another GE-sponsored team from Sleman, the AKRAM student company from SMAN 1, achieved Indonesia’s best ever results at the Asia Pacific Student Company of The Year Competition hosted by JA Singapore. AKRAM was a company of four students that sold innovative children’s toys made of expired bread!
Their quirky approach to micro enterprise won them the Best Financial Management prize and third place in the overall Student Company of the Year Competition.
AKRAM even managed to sell a few of their stale-bread toys at a pop-up shop they set up in a Singapore mall!
Want to know what AKRAM toys look like? Check out their commercial video (yes, they even made their own commercial!).
The GE-PJI entrepreneurship education program runs in each school for ten months, typically from October until July. One of the most important stages of the program is “Job Shadow”, where students are brought into GE offices to “shadow” GE staffs and learn directly from them the skills and knowledge that they could then apply in their own student companies. For one day, the students are given a rare chance to witness and weigh up which jobs they would like to consider in the future and also work out what they need to do to pursue a career. “I gained more experience in one day than I managed for a long time,” said a student from SMAN 35 in Jakarta at the end of a Job Shadow session at GE’s Jakarta office.
GE believes that if students have the opportunities to learn and experience what entrepreneurs face in running their businesses as early as possible, they will be more likely to use the knowledge and experience when they need it, probably sooner that they expect. GE Indonesia Communications Leader Ariavita Purnamasari said that she herself wished she had such opportunities when she was still in high school. “I could’ve learned so much about all the business functions of a real company, which would’ve been a big help in deciding my career options. Back then, I didn’t even know what a PR person or a Communications Manager would do!” she said.
Looks like stretching one’s experience can never come soon enough!