PA Business Week introduces students to the American economy

Partners Post, February 2016

A tech firm making GPS systems. A manufacturer of binoculars. The inventors of the D-LO - a new handheld Digital Life Organizer.

These are just some of the companies and products envisioned by high school students who have participated in Pennsylvania Business Week this year. Now in its 18th year, this weeklong program connects students in five Western Pennsylvania counties with area business leaders to teach them the ins and outs of the American economy.

PA Business Week - Photo 1
10th graders from Cambridge Springs High School in Crawford County competed with each other during Pennsylvania Business Week earlier this month.

During the week, teams of students form and manage companies using financial simulation software that allows them to price their products and compete with each other virtually. Students name their companies and products, overseeing everything from production to marketing.

Students are encouraged to use their imaginations as much as other skills to bring their "products" to market, said Val Laufenberg, executive director of the nonprofit educational organization Americans for the Competitive Enterprise System (ACES), which presents this in-school business program.

Volunteer business leaders advise students as they make business decisions, offering real-world lessons about the economy in the process. Their job is to guide conversations by asking the right questions, Laufenberg said. For instance, if students want to raise prices, an adviser might ask them to think about what that will do to sales and what the company could do to keep profits up.

PA Business Week - Photo 2
Cambridge Springs students brainstorm with a business leader.

During the week, students are taught how to manage finances, execute effective marketing and advertising campaigns, develop sales pitches for a trade show, and present their business plans to stockholders. They are assessed in competitions by their advisers.

Pennsylvania Business Week recently came to Cambridge Springs High School in Crawford County where one group of students formed a company manufacturing personal organizers. The students developed a product they called the Digital Life Organizer, or D-LO, and came up with taglines like "Connect to Our Galaxy" and "Rings to Success."

Students who participate in the program hail it for giving them a better understanding of the economy and introducing them to future career options, Laufenberg said. Business leaders agreed, saying it helps students see the important role each of them will soon play in their local economies.

Pennsylvania Business Week is a great example of the outside-the-box learning that is happening every day in public schools across Pennsylvania. Go to the Pennsylvania Business Week Facebook page to see more pictures.


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