College Corner

Sierra College offers certificate to kick-start small business

By: Mackenzie Myers, Reporter
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Though Sierra College’s entrepreneurial certificate program began in August, faculty members continue to set their sights on the practical over the academic, getting students into the business world before they graduate.

The program offers a nine-unit certificate and a more intensive 21-unit certificate, showing students how to run their own businesses through a combination of online and in-person courses. With the larger certificate, students study a discipline of their choosing alongside a hands-on entrepreneurial component that exposes them to the inner workings of small businesses.

Program coordinator Denise Bushnell said a general framework of entrepreneurship classes has been around at Sierra College for some time, but this program is more official and focuses on practical, real-world experience.

“Before it was pretty much just theory,” she said. “It was more academic, not hands-on. There was no maker space involvement, no going out and doing pitches, getting funding.”

The original framework solidified into an official certificate program after a $2-million state initiative across California that encouraged career development in community colleges. According to Bushnell, since California has the most self-employed workers of any state, legislators felt it necessary to encourage programs like these.

Now students can listen to guest speakers in classes, attend maker events and visit small businesses to understand how they function on the day-to-day. At the end of the program, Bushnell said, students are paired with a small-business owner who acts as a mentor as they start their own companies.

Since the program officially began last semester, about 120 students have enrolled in its courses, according to Bushnell. It has a dual focus: young adults entering the workforce for the first time and older students who may be unemployed or tired of working for someone else.

The program also caters to populations often underrepresented in the workforce, such as women, people of color and veterans — groups Bushnell said are quite entrepreneurial if given the opportunity.

Heading into the spring 2018 semester, the program is aiming toward student leadership in maker events on campus. Sierra College will host a student-run farmer’s market and separate entrepreneurship summits geared toward women and veterans this spring — the sort of activities Bushnell said are key to pushing students beyond the “now what?” of completing a program.