Entrepreneurship as an economic pathway for the laid-off workforce

Nonprofit pivot: Teaching entrepreneurial skills to anyone ready to relaunch a career

The deep job cuts due to COVID-19 have resulted in more than 30 million Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits over the past six weeks.

“The tidal wave of unemployment has revealed the precariousness of most people’s livelihoods. People are learning that they don’t own their futures in the way they thought,” says J.D. LaRock, President and CEO of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

Founded in 1987, the nonprofit traditionally provides entrepreneurship curriculum to students in middle and high school. Now, NFTE is adapting its programming to help adults who are dealing with financial hardship brought on by job loss.

J.D. LaRock, NFTE President & CEO (Photo: NFTE)

“We decided, in the midst of the unemployment crisis brought on by COVID-19 to enter the postsecondary/adult learner space. This is a big move for us and, hopefully, a positive move that can help a lot of people,” says LaRock.

“The spark to make the curriculum available to adults occurred about two weeks into the period where all of us were under stay-at home-orders. As an entrepreneurship education organization, we not only knew that we could adapt our high school curriculum to serve adults who are facing unemployment, but felt that we should from a mission standpoint,” he tells WorkingNation.

Learn the Skills of Entrepreneurship in Two Weeks

NFTE Career Relaunch is a free, short-term online course that teaches unemployed or underemployed adults the essentials of entrepreneurship. The course—which includes 14 lessons—encourages participants to think how their skills and talents can help them build a new career. LaRock adds that the course can be done at one’s own pace, but is designed to be completed in two weeks. “At the end of the course, learners will have a well-developed business idea and a basic business plan.”

Included in the curriculum are interactive digital lessons, assessments and video content. Among the topics covered are evaluating a business opportunity, conducting market research, targeting customers, and financing a new business.

The lessons included in NFTE Career Relaunch were culled from the yearlong curriculum offered to middle and high school learners. Says LaRock, “The big difference between our secondary school curriculum and the Relaunch program is we put a greater emphasis on the resources to help a budding business owner find capital to launch a business and connect to various government agencies, as well as other resources that can help get the business set up.”

Through a companion speaker series, learners will also be able to access expert advice from some NFTE alumni—who have become entrepreneurs and business leaders. Executives from Google, Microsoft, and other corporate partners are also among those sharing advice.

Soft Skills are Essential to the Entrepreneurial Mindset

NFTE was lauding entrepreneurship long before the world was hit by the current global health crisis. “We strongly believe that the entrepreneurial mindset is broadly helpful for younger learners and adults no matter what they are doing in life,” according to LaRock. When we talk about entrepreneurial mindset, we mean skills like communication, collaboration, problem solving, the ability to assess risk, the ability to think, to think strategically about the future, the ability to spot opportunities, the ability to be creative and flexible.”

Entrepreneurship Can Be a Choice Post-COVID-19

NFTE Career Relaunch is the response to a workforce in crisis, but the program may remain available after the worst of the pandemic passes. LaRock says,”There’s no timetable. We’re excited to find out whether this catches on with an adult population. Clearly, we’re trying to help serve a pressing need. But if we find that this is making a difference in people’s lives and is providing a helpful resource, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t want to continue it.”

NFTE offers its secondary school programming in 25 U.S. states and ten countries around the world. Since 1987, NFTE has educated 1.2 million young people globally, helping thousands launch businesses and companies of all sizes.