Teaching 21th Century Entrepreneurial Skills through a Virtual Enterprise Class Experience

Posted on Categories Business, Community, Workforce Engagement, Work-based learning

At a Glance

At Berks Career and Technology Center (BCTC) West Campus, students in the Business Management and Entrepreneurship Program participate in Virtual Enterprises International, a program that engages them in an international virtual business environment with real-time, real-world dynamics.


Members of the BCTC Occupational Advisory Committee and Rick Gochnauer, the Business Management and Entrepreneurship Program Instructor, decided to update the existing program to better meet the 21st century needs of students. They wanted the program to move beyond traditional teaching methods and incorporate methods that emphasize critical thinking skills and the ability to adapt to real-time changes in business dynamics. To meet this needed, they decided to implement the Virtual Enterprises International (VEI) program.

VEI replicates real-time enterprise by providing students a multi-layered, virtual business environment in which they create and operate their own companies. Guided by a task-based curriculum rather than a textbook, students produce the key deliverables that are required in a real business. Their companies engage in international trade with other student-run companies on a continuous basis, participating in a global economy of over 5,000 firms across 40 countries.

The simulation environment encourages risk-taking, continuous cycles of improvement, and innovation based on successes and failures. Furthermore, because students work in groups within the company, the program reinforces important 21st century skill sets.

Local Berks County business partners play an integral role in helping shape students’ experience by providing their expertise, skills, and knowledge inside and outside the classroom.

The Business Management and Entrepreneurship program is part of the Reading Area Community College Technical Academy Program. This program provides college-bound students with the opportunity to develop advanced technical skills and earn college credit toward and associate or bachelor’s degree while still in high school. Students can earn up to 23 college credits for the following courses: Introduction to Business, Microcomputer Applications, Business Math, and Principles of Management while attending BCTC. Additional courses may be taken at Reading Area Community College during the student’s senior year.

Origin / Implementation

OAC members and Mr. Gochnauer realized the existing Business Management and Entrepreneurship program did not provide students with the skills needed to succeed in modern industry. They wanted to redevelop the program so that it addressed this need while providing students with real world and higher level learning experiences. To meet this goal, they implemented the VEI program during the 2013-2014 school year. Mr. Gochnauer has attended several VEI training sessions in Trenton, New Jersey. BCTC pays for the program (approximately $2,200 per year) as part of the curriculum.

During a typical Business Management and Entrepreneurship class, students spend the first 45 minutes to one hour on classroom activities related to the Program of Study or Technical Academy. They then apply these skills in the second portion of class while working within their VEI virtual business. Some of the skills they apply include:

  • Develop and implement marketing plans,
  • Establish business procedural methods,
  • Implement inventory control methods,
  • Manage cash flow,
  • Analyze web page traffic (Google analytics),
  • Prepare the business plan (September – December),
  • Monitor regional sales and accounts receivable activity,
  • Institute motivational strategies for employees,
  • Maintain payroll records,
  • Ensure proper cash management,
  • Negotiate vendor contracts,
  • Collaborate with other programs within BCTC to assist with making a promotional commercial (Communication Media), developing marketing materials (Graphic Imaging), and HTML enhancements for shopping cart management (IT Programming), and
  • Work in a student-based project learning environment.

Overall instruction is delivered as it is in other CTC programs – some is self-paced, while at other times students are given assigned tasks. The goal is to have the student managers of the company assign the company tasks. For example, the CEO would assign regional managers the task of managing their respective account receivables files within their market. Regional Managers would then e-mail or call customers that have not paid within 30 days. The VP of Marketing would implement a marketing program to be executed by the Regional Managers.

Results / Impact

Mr. Gochnauer reports that through the use of the VEI program, students demonstrate critical thinking skills and make decisions under real time constraints on a daily basis. One student who was doing an internship with an insurance company reported that much of what students were doing in class mirrored what he was doing in his internship, such as invoicing customers, collecting accounts receivables, email correspondence, and managing the office.


Berks Career and Technology Center, West Campus
Dr. James Kraft, Director

Rich Gochnauer, Technology Based Entrepreneurship Instructor