Supporting school-based enterprises is an investment in your future workforce

Being connected to your local high school could be one of the smartest workforce development moves you make. One program, in particular, is well worth your investment: school-based enterprises (SBE), which give students opportunities to operate small-scale manufacturing firms from within school walls.  

Students involved in SBEs already have expressed interest in manufacturing; they are designing, making and commercializing products for local companies and other markets. Through this experience they gain practical skills that easily transfer to the workplace. They learn the manufacturing process and life skills at the same time.  

Companies that get involved in SBEs often have unprecedented access to young talent who could be part of their future workforce.   

Here are some ways Indiana companies have supported SBEs and ways you can, too: 

  1. Provide necessary equipment and material support to help SBEs keep expenses at a minimum.

    Materials are one of the most significant costs associated with running an SBE, but the volume needed to produce their smaller-scale projects is often readily available, or even considered scrap, by local manufacturers. For Perry Central High School’s Commodore Manufacturing, Waupaca Foundry provides steel for students to make welding rakes and plungers that are used by foundry workers, and Jasper Innovative Solutions outsources some product assembly to Commodore.  

    Here’s what you can do: 

    • Donate used equipment or fund new equipment for student use 
    • Donate scrap material which SBEs can use for smaller-scale projects 
    • Help with transportation by picking-up/dropping-off raw material or sharing delivery services 
    • Assist with set-up and training on new equipment 

  1. Share modern, industry knowledge with teachers and students. 

    The insights industry professionals gather from years of experience are essential knowledge for educators, facilitators and students. ProShop USA, provider of digital manufacturing management systems, has supported Brown County High School’s Eagle Manufacturing with guidance and expertise in the implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, as well as by being a customer and equipment provider. 

    Here’s what you can do: 

    • Help get your local SBE up and running by assisting in strategic planning or start-up operations 
    • Share best practices with student leaders and educators 
    • Join an advisory board to help lead and counsel the SBE
    • Provide externships for instructors to gain real-world experience
    • Invite instructors to networking events and conferences
    • Provide efficiency training (i.e., continual improvement and lean theory) 

  1. Open doors to opportunity and preparing students for careers in AML. 

    Nothing beats real-world experience – inside or outside of the classroom. The impact is particularly apparent with students who participate in on-site job shadowing or work-based learning opportunities. Loughmiller Machine Tool & Design, a machine shop in Martin County, provides CNC programming training two times each week for Loogootee High School students, and helped students set up computerized machines to produce parts for the U.S. Navy.  

    Here’s what you can do: 

    • Involve your staff, in diverse roles across the organization, in mentoring students and instructors 
    • Provide job shadowing, internships, apprenticeships and other work-based learning 
    • Offer industry-specific career guidance  
    • Provide on-site training on a new or emerging technology or practice 
    • Support personal development and career planning 
    • Equip for job searches by helping to develop their resumes and interview skills  

  1. Engage in the commercial aspect of their business.

    Just like any business, an SBE needs suppliers and customers. Industry can support that process by being a direct piece of their commercial journey or helping to provide the tools to facilitate it. Madison’s Royer Corp. did both. The company first donated a Radian laser system to Madison Consolidated School Corporation’s Cub Industries and then later engaged the SBE to manufacture cake toppers that Royer sells on Amazon Marketplace.  

    Here’s what you can do:

    • Understand their workflow to provide equipment and materials
    • Share user licenses on technology
    • Provide resources for marketing and advertising 
    • Assist in customer recruitment
    • Use SBE as a part or product supplier 
    • Allow students to participate in company projects, challenges and case studies 

Comprehensive education in Indiana’s K-12 schools is a key element to the success of the future of Indiana AML – and comprehensive education can only be achieved with the strong support of industry. That’s why Conexus Indiana is developing a program that will, among other things, facilitate more manufacturers’ collaboration with their local SBEs in hopes of building and strengthening Indiana’s student industries programming.  

If you’re interested in learning about that program, about SBEs in your area, or about how your firm can engage with an SBE now, contact Kyle Marshall at and be on the lookout for more from the Conexus team in the near future.