Agencies team to bring business training to vets
- By Brian Robinson
- Jul 10, 2000
Small Business Classroom home page
Veterans will gain access to a slew of Internet-based courses and services
aimed at budding entrepreneurs in an agreement signed last month between
the Small Business Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
SBA will develop distance-learning tools and training for veterans as
an extension of the agency's Small Business Classroom distance-learning initiative. The agreement is a result of the Veterans
Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999, which became
law in August last year and mandates the expansion and improvement of programs
for veterans who own or plan to start small businesses.
Veterans already can take advantage of SBA's seminars and classes held
at SBA and other agency offices nationwide. But the agreement targets the
many veterans who can't get to such locations.
"We have a large client base that is not close to any of the larger
cities, so we need to provide online services for those remote areas where
veterans may nevertheless have access to computers," said Cliff Toulson,
assistant administrator for the Office of Veterans Affairs at SBA.
Perhaps because many members of the veteran community live in remote
areas or are disabled and can't easily get to the government centers, unscientific
surveys have found that veterans are a little better informed than other
groups about how to use computers and the Internet, Toulson said. But veterans
also are a group with their own needs, he said, and they need more than
courses that are available to the general public.
"They want to see courses that are targeted to their specific needs,"
Toulson said. "We'll take the issues that are talked about by the veterans
in the face-to-face classrooms and convert them to programs that can be
used for distance learning. They'll include language personalized for the
veteran, for example."
There is a core of online courses already available that can be adapted
for veterans, according to Woodrow McCutcheon, executive director of the
Association of Small Business Development Centers, which is affiliated with
SBA. The trick will be in how to take the successful courses taught in classrooms
and put them online.
"Not all the courses that are effective as "talking head' courses translate
effectively into online courses," said McCutcheon, whose organization will
develop the distance-learning courses with SBA. "So we'll be looking to
build new, interactive courses that will provide for feedback online and
that can be used for formal college accreditation."
Special programs for disabled veterans also will be developed, he said.
As an added incentive for veterans to get involved in these types of
courses, the 1999 act mandates a 3 percent federal procurement goal for
small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.
In the past fiscal year, SBA served about 72,000 veteran entrepreneurs
through its business training and counseling services.
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.