Radical changes in the world of work are presenting graduates with a range of work alternatives. Full-time employment is decreasing, and self-employment is increasing, ranging from part-time employment, multi-tracking, job sharing, contracting, consulting, and freelancing to entrepreneurship where the grad launches a business venture which employs other people.
To enable students to access opportunities to develop an entrepreneurial or self-employment work term, the institution must establish clear guidelines which meet quality co-op standards.
A. APPROVAL OF STUDENT BUSINESS PLAN: Using resources and contact information provided by the institution, students prepare and present a written business plan for self-employment. Co-op Coordinator, faculty and student need to discuss the plan, in order to develop an "entrepreneurial work term agreement" for the individual student. Considerations include:
- work is suitable and directly relate to the student's field of study
- viability of the business plan to generate income for the student, including:
- competitive analysis and marketing plan
- identification of resources needed and source of availability to the student
- estimate of liabilities that could be incurred and evidence of appropriate insurance coverage
- financial plan for the period of operation
- participant roles and responsibilities
B. IDENTIFICATION OF MEANS TO MONITOR AND EVALUATE PERFORMANCE: Securing means of adequate monitoring and evaluation of student performance on their entrepreneurial work term is one of the most challenging aspects of this option.
- A plan must be developed to obtain adequate monitoring and performance evaluation. A list of mentors or advisors must be identified in the entrepreneurial work term agreement. The role of each mentor needs to be clarified to provide adequate guidance and a measure of control over the development and operation of the business. Advisors should include:
- a faculty mentor to assess, direct and monitor requirements of the work term;
- a business/industry mentor to advise and monitor during the work term;
- the Co-op Coordinator to facilitate the process;
- paid advisors as needed such as financial, legal, etc.;
- any other individuals who may be able to contribute to work term objectives.
TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR THE WORK TERM: Specific terms and expectations must be stated in the work term agreement or contract to include:
Statement of terms and conditions assumed by student including responsibility to:
- manage the work term experience
- seek mentoring
- be accountable for logging the required number of work hours
- obtain insurance coverage for potential liabilities of their venture, and themselves
- release to hold harmless from liability, the institution and all mentors.
Specific work term evaluations:
- Job start verification data - student , head office, phone, fax, e-mail and location where participants will work each day.
- Plan and time lines for mentoring meetings to ensure the quality of the experience.
- Role for each advisor/mentor should be agreed upon and regular status reports provided as well as any changes in the objectives of the organization.
- Methods to log hours worked, nature of work performed, revenues and expenses and minutes of meetings with mentors.
Means of grading the entrepreneurial work term must be established at the outset, including:
- amount of work required to constitute a work term
- work report scope and content (normally a report on the outcomes of the venture)
- Employer Evaluations are completed by the advisors/mentors
- Monitoring progress report is completed by the Co-op Coordinator in consultation with the student and the advisors/mentors
Entrepreneurial work term models in a few Canadian co-op institutions include:
- a special option for students in regular co-op programs (as described above)
- Small Business & Entrepreneurship co-op programs (faculty mentor and monitor ventures)
- YIP funded Youth Entrepreneurial Co-op pilot programs as an add on to various academic programs, for eligible persons between 18-30 to develop their own self-employment outcomes (facilitated by a coordinator/coach)
- In-house consulting groups (facilitated by faculty)
Outcomes include "fired up students" who are learning how to work smart at self-employment.
Resources to help student entrepreneurs:
Schincariol, David, Start and Run a Profitable Student-Run Business, Self-Counsel Press, 1995
How to Really Start Your Own Business, Inc. CD Rom, Zelos Digital Learning Quick Insight, Business Resource Software
Self-Counsel Press Business Series, ie: Incorporation & Business Guide for (various provinces)