By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The term BETS is more than just an acronym; it’s also a significant wager that the University of Tennessee (UT) and its partners are making annually in the success of 30 high school students considering a career in business.
“Business Education for Talented Students,” the official title of the program, was launched in 2008 by the Office of Diversity and Community Relations in the Haslam College of Business with a two-fold goal: increase the business acumen of high school students from under-represented groups and help recruit more of them to the institution.
Judging by the statistics from the first seven years of the new initiative, it has been a wise investment decision. More than 70 percent of the participants have graduated from high school and nearly 65 have gone on to enroll at UT with some having already graduated.
“We want these students to learn how to win in the world of business,” said Tyvi Small, Director of the Office and the creator of the program.
From its modest beginning with 10 soon-to-be high school seniors in the summer of 2008, the program has grown to its current maximum size of 30. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) to be considered, although Small says that number is generally above a 3.5.
“That first year was a beta year,” he added, explaining that his team built the model curriculum that focuses on all aspects of business – accounting, economics, general management, finance, human resources management, public administration, and marketing. UT faculty provide the instruction.
BETS was initially launched as a one-week program with the first class coming solely from high schools in Knoxville. It has evolved into a two-week program with the participants coming from schools across the state and even beyond.
“We generally start it the second or third week in June,” Small said. Dates for the 2016 edition are June 15 through 26.
PepsiCo was the sole sponsor during the first six years. In 2015, four companies – McCormick and Company, Boeing, Scripps Interactive Networks and Dixon Hughes Goodman – shared the sponsorship responsibilities.
“The first few days are devoted to areas like personal development, public speaking and networking,” Small explained. Next, the students spend time visiting companies in the area and interacting with successful business executives.
Small added that the students divide into teams and participate in a business simulation project called “Market Place.” The computer-based activity takes them through four quarters in the life of a company, and they get to make decisions about investment of capital, employment of individuals, location of offices, and many other types of business decisions.
“We run a balanced scorecard so the students have a real-time view of the impact of their decisions,” Small said. The scorecard evaluates items such as revenue, product, and other factors.
BETS is open to high school students from under-represented backgrounds, first generation college, and those eligible for free or reduced lunches.
For those interested in learning more about the program, there’s a video available here and this fact sheet provided by the Haslam College. Application deadline is March 18. For more information including access to the application, click here.