Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship

We are delighted to announce that Schumacher Center and BerkShares will be partnering with Railroad Street Youth Project and Berkshire Community College’s South County Center to offer an Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship to South County youth ages 14-25 this winter.  Berkshire Community College’s South County Center will host the eight-week long course in one of its state-of-the-art classrooms starting January 20th.

As many of us know, the Berkshire region’s economy has undergone a transformation over the last generation and more.  What had been an economy grounded in manufacturing now tends towards the service sector.  A combination of low-wage jobs and high housing costs has made it especially difficult to retain the area’s youth. The County’s population is declining and the median age of Berkshire residents is now 45.

At the same time, however, Berkshire County has a thriving independent business community with many examples of successful small or medium-sized businesses and many experienced business people.  The Berkshires also have an abundance of renewable natural resources — hardwood forests, rivers and agriculture — all of which can provide energy and inputs to make the things people need and want. The Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship will focus on the following question: “What kind of businesses can young people start in the Berkshires by harnessing the available human and natural resources in a sustainable way?” The course will emphasize opportunities for import replacement in the essential areas of food, clothing, energy, transportation and shelter.

Throughout the course guest speakers from the local business community will offer stories from their own experience as inspiration to the budding entrepreneurs participating in the program.  Other local business experts will present on particular subjects, such as marketing and bookkeeping. Yet others will serve as mentors to the participants as they develop their business ideas.

By offering training for entrepreneurship, this business-planning course will dovetail with R.S.Y.P.’s existing Apprenticeship programs, which offer high school students real-world experience in a number of different fields. The course will culminate in March with a public presentation of business plans where each participant will be awarded 200 BerkShares.

If you or someone you know is interested in participating please contact Jocelyn Vassos at R.S.Y.P. by email or at 413.528.2475 ext. 905 before January 16th.

In other local currency news, the Berkshire Museum and Berkshire Mountain Distillers just began using BerkShares in December. We’re very happy to have both of them–one an established Berkshire icon and the other well on its way to becoming a distinctive product of the Berkshires–in our community of BerkShares businesses.

The museum’s executive director Van Shields explains that BerkShares are a natural complement to the Berkshire Museum‘s interdisciplinary approach to education because of the way the notes celebrate and promote our area’s rich artistic, natural and historical heritage. Read more about Berkshire Museum and BerkShares here.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers, too, is a natural BerkShares business, says owner Chris Weld, who has had his eye on BerkShares from the very start due to his interest in bringing production back to the Berkshires. He is glad to be accepting BerkShares at Berkshire Mountain Distiller’s new retail location at 356 South Main Street (Route 7) in Sheffield, just south of the center of town.

Our next BerkShares Business of the Month will be Home Sweet Home Doughnut Shoppe, which has locations in Stockbridge and Great Barrington.  Look for the story in the Berkshire Trade & Commerce and the Berkshire Edge later this month and listen for the interview on WSBS on Wednesday, January 28th, at 9:30. You can find past interviews and articles in our archives.

Visit a participating bank branch near you (in Stockbridge, Lee, Great Barrington, Sheffield or Egremont), and change some of your dollars into local currency. Then visit some of our 400 BerkShares businesses and spend some BerkShares.