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Entrepreneurial program spreading to PPCC, Colorado Springs businesses

February 13, 2014 Updated: February 13, 2014 at 5:05 am
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Pikes Peak Community College will require much of its incoming fall freshman class to enroll in a training program designed for entrepreneurs as a way to better prepare students for college and the workplace, PPCC President Lance Bolton said Wednesday.

The 22,000-student college began using the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program in four introductory classes in its remedial education program in January. The school plans to expand it to include half of the students in the remedial program in the fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters, Bolton said.

A growing number of Colorado Springs-area businesses have reported increasing difficulty in finding qualified workers.

"This program addresses many of the challenges faced by our students," Bolton said. "It addresses a pressing need for the college and the community by making sure young people have the skills to go into the workplace and be employable and productive citizens."

PPCC's commitment represents the largest use of the Ice House program in its 2?-year history and marks the first time a college has required it for the bulk of its student body, rather than offered it as a course to students seeking a business degree, program co-founder Gary Schoeniger said.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., started the 10-week Ice House Entrepreneurship Program in mid-2011 with two other groups - Schoeniger's Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative and Clifton Taulbert's Building Community Institute - to bridge a gap they saw in entrepreneurial education. The lessons, based on the book "Who Owns the Ice House?" by Schoeniger and Taulbert, examine making choices, recognizing opportunities and creating wealth.

PPCC is bringing Schoeniger to Colorado Springs in mid-April to train up to 60 Ice House presenters, including 25 faculty members.

"As a required first-year course, they (PPCC officials) are demonstrating a level of commitment to the lifelong welfare of their students that goes beyond many other institutions of higher education," Schoeniger said. "It challenges the long-held false notions that entrepreneurial thinking is solely a business acumen and that economic opportunity is the exclusive benefit to the few lucky enough to be born with it."

Half of the students in PPCC's remedial education program will take classes using the Ice House curriculum; the other half will use a more traditional program that emphasizes study skills and resources available from the college, Bolton said.

After a year, the college will compare the results of both programs and choose one to use for all remedial students in the fall 2015 semester, he said.

About two-thirds of the college's degree-seeking students are enrolled in the remedial program, which brings incoming freshmen up to a college level in English and mathematics.

The Pikes Peak Work Force Center and the Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center will offer the Ice House program to local businesses on a test basis next month. In addition, the work force center plans to offer an Ice House program this summer through its youth summer employment effort.

"The Ice House Program will help drive a culture of innovation in Colorado Springs by producing graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset," said Bree Langemo, dean of PPCC's Business, Public Service and Social Sciences Division.

College officials learned about the Ice House program through local entrepreneur and philanthropist Joe Woodford. He gave senior PPCC administrators copies of the book on which the program is based and set up a meeting last summer with Schoeniger so they could learn more about Ice House. In October, PPCC sent Langemo, another administrator and two faculty members to Kauffman Foundation headquarters to be trained to present the program.

Eight other Springs-area residents also attended the training session, including officials from the work force center. They later joined with the small business center and Colorado Lending Source to help launch the program for local businesses. That program begins March 25.

"If we can install the qualities of innovation into someone - problem solving, critical thinking - 'How I can do something better' - and working together on a solution, then the entire community has something to gain," said Dana Barton, the work force center's business relations and employment development director and who attended the October training.

In a related effort, six local entrepreneurs will hold the first 1 Million Cups gathering in Colorado Springs. The 1 Million Cups program was developed by the foundation's Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation and is run by entrepreneurs in Denver, Fort Collins and 27 other cities.

At 1 Million Cups gatherings, local entrepreneurs will give a six-minute presentation about their startups to mentors, advisers and other businesspeople and get 20 minutes of feedback and questions from the audience.

The gatherings will be held from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesdays, beginning April 16. The April 16 event will be held at the Ivywild School complex, 1604 S. Cascade Ave., by local restaurant owner and entrepreneur Joe Coleman, Bristol Brewing Co. CEO Mike Bristol, Fat Bike Co. co-founder Steve Kaczmarek, Epicentral Coworking founders Hannah Parsons and Lisa Tessarowicz and founder Julian Flores.

The 1 Million Cups program also includes online curriculum, coaching and learning by experience.

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