Question: I've talked to a few human resources managers who say good help is very hard to find. I've been thinking about creating a training center geared toward teaching life skills to high school- and college-aged students to better prepare them for the work force. How can I get more information on this topic?
Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Answer: Since you've already started your research by talking to HR managers, you're definitely on the right track. Like many homebased business owners, you have two different target audiences-a consumer audience, the students, and a business audience composed of human resources managers at large companies. Your new training center can be a strong link in the chain between students who require training and job placement, and major employers who are looking for qualified applicants. The key is to create a group of services that meets the needs of both audiences.
Decide what you'll offer potential students that they can't find elsewhere. What will make your training center unique or appealing to them? Answering this question requires knowing more than the types of accreditation you'll offer and whether there will be government or local subsidies available to offset the cost of tuition. Study your potential competitors' brochures, ads and other marketing materials, and be prepared to position your business against them by formulating a unique set of benefits your students will enjoy when they choose your training center.
Once you have a clear idea of the benefits you'll offer prospective students, you can begin to set up affiliations with major employers, offering them the first look at your best students in exchange for their agreement to review resumes and interview qualified graduates. In addition to providing job placement assistance, you can partner with your affiliated companies for special promotions, using their name recognition to market your training center to students. For example, you might set up relationships with corporate sponsors to provide training center scholarships for the best student applicants and then promote the scholarships in area schools and universities. This type of promotion will earn positive publicity for your corporate affiliates and go a long way toward establishing your new training center's credibility. It will also help you cultivate relationships with vital referral sources-teachers and guidance counselors.