Business Week, CUs Teach Teens about Entrepreneurship and Business

The business week programs introduce teens to business concepts, and are a valuable opportunity for credit unions to give back to the community.

Credit unions in Oregon and Washington are teaming up with educational camps to teach youths about the economy, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

The two state programs, Oregon’s Young Entrepreneurs Business Week (YEBW) and the Washington Business Week (WBW), immerse teens in the practicalities of pitching and running a business.

Shari Storm, SVP of Verity Credit Union in Seattle, Wash., attended the program in 1987 and has been a supporter ever since, serving as a camp advisor and board director. She also led a group to teach Business Week in Minsk, Belarus.

“I love the programs—both for teens and for professionals,” said Storm. “It is a great way to give back to the community, while kids get hands-on, valuable leadership training.”

The Washington program was formed in 1976 by the president of Central Washington State College with backing by the Association of Washington Business. It has serve as a template for 22 other states, as well as international programs in places like Belarus and Poland.

The course itself has evolved over the years, with special weeks dedicated to renewable energy, healthcare, and manufacturing. More advanced business weeks build on these lessons, asking students to create a business plan.

Credit unions are an important part of the next step, according to Stephen Hyer, Executive Director of the Foundation for Private Enterprise Education, which oversees the WBW.

“We have teamed up with credit unions because of their links throughout the state,” said Hyer. “They are giving so much to the program, but they are also helping to get the message out to their employees, their members, and teens.”

“We hope that more credit unions can step forward to support and participate in this important program.”

Marissa Fisher with YEBW agrees, and sees the courses as a way to support the community.

“We all need to do our part to ensure future business and community members are prepared,” she said. “Sponsoring a student to attend YEBW is one of the ways to demonstrate your company’s belief in that future.”

In Washington, a number of credit unions are already supporting the program. For example, Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union offers a “Feel Good” checking account in which members can designate WBW for a one-time $20 donation. The credit union also offers $50 off WBW tuition to all of its members and sends volunteers to teach at various business weeks.

Salal Credit Union, also based in Seattle, is donating $5,000 to the program, as well as two $2,500 scholarships to this summer’s Healthcare Week in Tacoma, Wash. The credit union is also sending volunteers.

BECU has been a major supporter for over 10 years, with annual contributions of over $9,000 and at least three employees volunteering their time to advise and judge the students’ work.

The Oregon YEBW is currently in talks with a credit union about sponsoring a number of students, though nothing has been finalized yet.

 

For more information or to contact Oregon’s Young Entrepreneurs Business Week, visit yebw.org, or call 503.588.0050.

For more information about Washington Business Week, visit wbw.org or contact Executive Director Stephen A. Hyer: 253.815.6900, Steve@wbw.org.