MBA Research
Not-for-profit, research-based support for all Business Administration educators: entrepreneurship, finance, hospitality, management/administration, and marketing.
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Positioning

2015 looks to be a good year for new college graduates, with business being the number one most sought-after major (38%).  This according to a recently-released survey from CareerBuilder (www.CareerBuilder.com).  Other in-demand majors include computer and information sciences (27%), engineering (18%), math and statistics (14%), and health professions (14%).

Specific positions that hiring managers are looking to fill include:

  • Information technology (30%)
  • Customer service (28%)
  • Finance/Accounting (22%)
  • Sales (21%)
  • Business development (19%)

Although the employment statistics bode well for those of us teaching business administration programs in entrepreneurship, finance, management/administration, and marketing, employers are critical of the preparation students receive in their college programs.  Some 46% believe there is too much emphasis on book learning versus real-world learning.  (This, of course, is an area of strength for business administration programs based on industry-validated standards.)  Hiring managers identified a laundry list of skills they’d like to see better developed in their job candidates, including:

  • Interpersonal skills (52%)*
  • Problem-solving (46%)*
  • Oral communication (41%)
  • Leadership (40%)*
  • Written communication (38%)

Other areas of interest included:  teamwork*, creative thinking*, project management^, research and analysis, math, and computer/technical skills.

*Watch for our new leadership course and leadership modules scheduled for release beginning in the 16-17 school year.  (Most will be free!)

^Watch for the release of new projects now being pilot tested on behalf of the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation.  Following revisions and updates next spring, we expect projects to be available at no cost for business administration programs in finance, management, and marketing.

For timely information from the business community and on projects underway at MBA Research, be sure you’re subscribed to our Perspectives newsletter.

Statistics Support Business and Marketing Education

Demand for high-quality, rigorous business curricula—as outlined in the national Business Administration standards* and curriculum framework—is evidenced in many ways. High school students completing a rigorous high school MBA program of study are far better prepared than is the typical non-business student to make informed choices for both college and career. Further, those completing such programs leave with a knowledge base and skill set that support employment and advancement in a variety of business settings.

Continuing Education

  • 21.7% of bachelor’s degrees were in the field of business; next highest was 10.5% in social sciences and history. +
  • Degrees conferred in business: 348,000, in social sciences and history: 169,000, in health sciences: 120,000, and in education: 102,000. +
  • 16.7% of associate’s degrees conferred were in business. +
  • 13.9% of all incoming freshmen major in business administration. †
  • Business Administration is the second most common declared major—second only to “Professional”  which includes a very broad range of majors such as medicine, architecture, library science, and nursing. †


Future Success

The annual Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey of human resource professionals^ suggests that new college graduates with the best chance of landing a career:

  • 36.8% Bus Ad (18.4), Accounting/Finance (10.5), Marketing (7.9)
  • 26.0% Healthcare
  • 10.7% Computer Science
  • 10.3% Engineering
  • 5.5% Liberal Arts
  • 3.0% Education
  • 2.6% Communication/Journalism


Labor Data projections by 2016@

  • Job openings in business-related occupations are projected to be 21.1 million
  • Job openings in STEM-related occupations are projected to be 3 million


Although few would question the importance of STEM-related careers, nor the need for better teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math, it should be apparent that far more of our high school student population will find careers in business than will enter the STEM world.

For additional data, source documentation, and more information on positioning your business/marketing program: www.MBAResearch.org->Program Development

*    www.MBAResearch.org->Standards
+    2008-2009; U.S. DOE, National Center for Education Statistics
†    Source: The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2010, Cooperative Institution  Resource Program, (UCLA, 2010).
^    Challengergray.com, 2010
@    Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology Occupational employment projections to 2016. Monthly Labor Review

Click here for a printable PDF version of this page.

As CTE (Career and Technical Education) goes through its own repositioning, most of the discussion focuses on STEM and academics.  Business and marketing education programs are seldom at the forefront of the dialogue or of the high school reform initiatives.

But we should be! 

If our programs are to grow and prosper, we must ask the basic questions implied in the title of this article:  Who is our constituency?  Who will care if our programs grow or die?  Who will advocate on our behalf?  Who will benefit from our programs?  What are the benefits we promise?  Can we deliver on them?

The answer to these and other questions will depend a great deal on how we position our programs.  Our positioning – as viewed by others – will be determined primarily by the learning expectations we put forth and by our ability to communicate real value.

As our Consortium leadership has expressed increasing concerns over the future of business and marketing programs in a STEM world, several key strategies have become increasingly apparent.  Consider the following as a starting point for repositioning our programs within the context of today’s high school education climate:

  • Build strong relationships with the business community
  • Implement contemporary, industry-validated curricula and proof of learning
  • (Re)Focus on business skills and concepts
  • Implement quality management strategies and documentation
  • Develop marketing strategies (v. student recruiting and promotion)


None of these is easy, and most will require a coordinated, national approach. 

Examples of work being undertaken by the MBA Consortium of states to address these and other issues include:

  • Development of the MBA Executive Advisory Network which will provide a vehicle for all local business leaders to participate in a national dialogue regarding standards AND as a national advocacy group to reinforce the critical need for strong business and marketing curricula in our high schools and colleges.
  • Development of a new accredited program concept that will allow and support the creation of a national “brand” that can be marketed in much the same way as STEM, arts, music, and other programs.
  • Creation of an online learning center that will provide free and low-cost learning opportunities, including support of pre-service baccalaureate and graduate programs.
  • Continuing industry research to ensure that the standards and curriculum models of the Consortium truly represent best practice and that they are substantively anchored by extensive business participation.


If these programs and others under development are to have real impact, they will require the full support and participation of a critical mass of business and marketing teachers.  To that end, we will continue to report progress via this newsletter.  More importantly, we strongly encourage all business and marketing teacher-leaders and administrators to join the discussions.  Watch for workshops and discussion sessions at national conferences (e.g., ACTE, Career Cluster Institute, MBA Conclave), and at regional drive-in workshops in the coming year. 

--Jim Gleason, PH.D.
President/CEO, MBA Research

While the MBA Research Business Administration model provides strong guidance on curriculum for Business Administration programs in entrepreneurship, finance, hospitality, management, and marketing, employment data provide a different type of reference point.  And, with nearly 20% of college freshmen majoring in business, this exceptional interest in college business classes would seem to be a strong argument for increasing the number of Business Administration courses in high school.  Employment data add still more to the argument. Read More.

This project is best suited for graduating seniors.  Use it to pull together various aspects of your lessons in communications and marketing.

Celebrating Success!

--A Positioning Campaign in Support of Career and Technical Education and Business/Marketing Education--

This project is best suited for graduating seniors.  Use it to pull together various aspects of your lessons in communications and marketing.  The project offers a real-life activity that includes identification of target markets, benefits analysis, communications strategy, and more.  And, it has the added benefits of helping vest your students more solidly in the program over time (They will remember this project.) and of building a support base (stakeholders with a vested interest) that will benefit your program over time.

Important:  This project is not intended to be a two day letter-writing exercise.  Rather, it is intended to be conducted as a marketing project that results in a communications campaign not unlike how a marketing research company and a PR company might team up to build a branding campaign.  Keep in mind, this project is NOT a simulation.  This is a real campaign, with real people, and with real consequences. 

Ideally, this project might be developed over a six to ten-week period.

1.  Identify stakeholders.  Brainstorm with the entire class to identify those who benefit from your school's business and marketing program:

Short term: (Example: seniors planning to attend college and major in business)

Long term: (Example: local economy)

Don't be bashful.  Consider how the program benefits local employers, underclassmen searching for something of interest in school, students not interested in college and who need career skills right now, et. al.

NOTE:  For the time being, do not consider legislators as a stakeholder group.  They will get special treatment later in the project.

2.  Develop a benefit analysis.  Begin with small groups assigned to specific stakeholders, and identify benefits of your program to each stakeholder.  Think in terms of positive learning outcomes rather than process.  ("We had a great trip to nationals" is not a benefit statement.  But what were the benefits of having made the trip?)  Use your curriculum and program of study as a trigger to generate ideas.  In a large-group (classroom) setting, use the input from the small group assignments to expand and refine the list.  The end product of step 2 should be a very substantive list of benefits organized by stakeholder group.  (There will be some overlaps, but there should also be distinctly different benefits for each.)

3.  Test the benefit statements.  Divide the class into small groups, each responsible for a stakeholder group.  (Some students might appropriately be assigned to more than one group.)  Have each group arrange to interview several representatives of those groups that are accessible.  In each interview, have students plan to a) explain your business/marketing program as necessary, b) review the relevant benefit statements to determine agreement, to modify as necessary to better fit the stakeholder group, and c) to generate additional statements.  Based on stakeholder input, create the final list of benefit statements for each group.

4. Share.  Share your list with your colleagues nationwide.  Send it to MBAResearch (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and we'll share your ideas, as appropriate, via our website and email.  Remember:  The better-positioned your neighboring schools (cities, states, etc.) are, the better-positioned all programs will be over the long haul.  Let's help one another by sharing ideas.

5.  Personalize the benefits.  Individually, or in teams of two or three, use the class's lists of benefits to select those with the most meaning to individual students.  Each student should be able to identify at least four or five specific benefits that s/he gained over the course of the year(s).  Rewrite the selected benefits, adding specific examples and language of individual students. 

Example:  If the class lists "Learned to communicate with adults." as a benefit statement, a personalized version might read:  "Before I took marketing education, I was afraid to talk to anyone older than me, except for my family. In my business classes, we learned how to interact with professional business people, and I learned that I do have something to say when I'm working with adults."

4.  Identify gatekeepers.  Brainstorm with the entire class a list of those people who have the power to support or damage your program.  To generate the list, identify those people who control  things like funding (where the money comes from), budgeting (how the money is spent), and valuing (i.e., making decisions about the value of the program to the school and to individual students). 

Example:  Funding comes from the federal government (Perkins), so your list should include the appropriate House representative and both Senators from your state.  (Hint:  Identify your Congressional delegation by visiting the public policy section of ACTEonline.org)  Funding also comes from state funds, so you'll want to add to your list the Congressional delegation for each student's home address.

Be sure to expand your list of gatekeepers to include all gatekeepers (administrators, school board members, guidance counselors, et. al.).

5.  Legislators:  Write the letter.  Ask each individual student to  use the list of personalized benefits (item 3) to develop  one letter to his/her Congressperson.  (Hint:  Each letter might have four parts:  1) I am (or will soon be) a registered voter in your district/state.  2) Thank you for supporting Career and Technical Education.  3) As a CTE business/marketing student, I benefited..., and 4) Please continue your support of CTE and please help support funding of the Perkins legislation.  (Please provide enough federal funds to keep CTE alive in my school.)  Letters do not have to be long.

Check the letter carefully for grammar and spelling. 

Personalize the letter for each of the three Congressional delegates.

Fax or email the letter.  (Hint:  Because of security procedures in DC, most Congressional offices prefer fax or email over hard copy letters.)   A very easy way to email is through the Public Policy section at http://www.acteonline.org/

Repeat the process for state legislatorssubstituting references to Perkins with references to state legislation.  Many states have specific laws supporting CTE.  In those that don't ask for support.  (Hint:  "My CTE program in business/marketing is so important to so many students, we really need for the state to offer its support.  A little money could do a lot of good...")

6.  Reach out to other gatekeepers.

a.  Using the list of benefits generated previously, match appropriate benefit statements with specific gatekeepers.  (Example:  School administrator:  1) recognition for the school through positive publicity, 2) documentation of learning through achievement of certifications, 3) reduction of drop-outs because of increased interest, or 4) improved test scores resulting from integration of math into the business/marketing curriculum.

b.  For each group of gatekeepers, develop strategies to communicate identified benefits.  (Example:  a) letters, b) formal report, c) face-to-face meetings, or d) meal function with show and tell.)

7.  Involve all stakeholders.  Brainstorm specific ideas for involving all remaining stakeholders.  Keep in mind that the definition of a stakeholder is someone with a vested interest in the program. In other words, a stakeholder is an individual who will be impacted (either positively or negatively) by the success of the business/marketing program. 

Using the benefit statements generated earlier, identify ways a) to communicate appropriate benefits to each stakeholder - either one on one, or as a group - and b) to involve them in a way that encourages them to become increasingly vested in the success or failures of the program. 

8.  Strategic plan.  Using the various outcomes of the above activities, develop the first draft of a strategic plan for positioning your business/marketing program in the community.  Think in terms of short-term goals (months) and long-term goals (years).   Identify key activities and specific outcomes for each activity and schedule them for completion over the next three years.  (Keep in mind that many activities might be completed each year (e.g., letters to legislators), while others might take the full three years to reach completion (e.g., gain commitment and funds to establish an in-school computer network to support all business students).

Reminder:  Be sure to share your ideas and successes with MBA Research.  Let us share your successes with your colleagues nationwide.  And, remember, this activity is intended to spark your own creativity.  Make it work for you, your students, and your school. Begin this spring with letters to legislators (critical) and add additional activities as appropriate.  Do one or two things this year and plan (this year) for additional activities to be completed next year.

Remember:  Other than your students, your program has few vested stakeholders until you find a way to communicate with and to involve them in the successes of your program.  In other words, no one cares about your program until you give them a reason to care.