We are fortunate to have many organizations expanding entrepreneurship within our community, ranging from community-based programming to start-up incubators to business plan competitions. Our focus here at Penn State Wilkes-Barre is to serve as a hub promoting these existing offerings while emphasizing our educational opportunities in the field. The IDEA Hub at Penn-State Wilkes-Barre, a part of the Invent Penn State initiative, leverages its unique strengths to add value to the comprehensive entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Wyoming Valley. The IDEA Hub brings together the campus and surrounding community to advance an entrepreneurial mindset through immersive skill development, empowering individuals, and organizations to embrace the opportunities for future employability by offering networking and skill development opportunities. The IDEA Hub is a contributing partner and sponsor of the Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce and Think Center, a catalyst for business development in the northeast region, focused on employability, innovation, and retention.
IDEA Hub Programs
Programs are the cornerstone of the IDEA Hub here at Wilkes-Barre. We aim to engage all community members interested in entrepreneurship and innovation, to continually enhance their skills to be more employable and to support the overall employability of the region.
To meet this need, we consult, sponsor, and partner with many in the area to ensure that accessible learning, designed around the requirements of the learner, is available. Our programs and offerings continuously adapt and evolve to meet the learner’s needs, providing an immersive, interactive learning experience.
Offered through the Wilkes-Barre Connect program and sponsored by the WilkesBarre IDEA Hub, quarterly events are provided for industry leaders and entrepreneurs in NEPA to meet, discuss and network together. All events feature a fifteen-minute presentation from well-known entrepreneurs in the region.
The IDEA Hub works closely with our campus faculty to provide students with opportunities to participate in programs that support community innovation and entrepreneurship. Opportunities are offered in partnership with the Penn State-sponsored Wilkes-Barre Connect Program and Think Center, with full access to the Penn State Conference Room.
- Students in MGMT 427, “Managing an Entrepreneurial Start-Up,” interviewed local entrepreneurs and told the story of their journey, from startup through growth, highlighting the steps taken and resources utilized during development. The story was created and told via an infographic to the community.
- Students in BA 321, “Contemporary Skills for Business Professionals,” are designing an interactive map that showcases the Wyoming Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem, which upon completion will be utilized by the regional entrepreneurial and small business community.
- Students in IB 303, “International Business,” hosted an on-campus program on cryptocurrency for the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), held November 9–12. Students also had an opportunity to interview Steve Blackburn at LSEO, a digital marketing agency, in the Wilkes-Barre downtown Accelerator.
2022-2023 Program Development
Dual Enrollment Entrepreneurship Course Offerings
Working alongside the Director of Enrollment, we are working with local high schools to construct a course in entrepreneurship to be offered Fall of 2022.
Working alongside the Director of Student Services & Engagement, we are planning an informal launch of a cross-discipline group to compete in a selected competition in the region for the 2022/23 academic year to commence in September of 2022.
Entrepreneurial Mindset Competency Training Program — “We Are Entrepreneurial” Micro-credentials
Bite-sized virtual courses that can be combined/stacked, which support vital postpandemic competencies identified by local economic development experts, leading to a personal portfolio that can then be utilized to support local and regional employability needs with a focus on “soft skills.” All courses will be accessible around the availability of the learner, and all participants that complete each stack will receive a badge.
Phase I of the revised IDEA Hub commenced in 2021 with an emphasis on the Entrepreneurial Mindset Competency Training Program and includes the following outcomes:
- 12 meetings held with key community and campus stakeholders to gather data on entrepreneurship programming currently offered in the Wyoming Valley.
- Construction of IDEA Hub Mission and Vision statements which were distributed to all key stakeholders.
- 22 meetings were held with key community and campus stakeholders to construct a needs analysis.
- Met for the first time with the advisory board and other advisory groups to share the IDEA Hub Mission and Vision statements as well as next steps.
- Began to connect with other commonwealth campus directors of hubs and launch boxes.
- Meetings commenced with Jeffrey Chiampi to connect the existing Coding the Coal Region programming to the IDEA Hub. These meetings expanded throughout the summer to include other partners, including the Chamber of Commerce and Junior Achievement. See more details for Keystone Coding and Careers (KCC) below.
- Frequent meetings commenced with the Director of Campus Development to take advantage of the endowment match that ends in June of 2022.
- Grant opportunity through PPL identified and developed through the summer and into the fall, led by Jeffrey Chiampi and Junior Achievement.
- Met with prospective donors identified by the Director of Campus Development.
- Phase I planning for the IDEA Hub was planned with execution beginning in September of 2021.
September – December 2021
- Conduct focus groups with key community and campus stakeholders to identify two pilot online micro-credentials to run in the Fall of 2022.
- Identify other internal and external partners to Penn State University to support the development of micro-credentials. Two individuals were identified, and subsequent meetings were held to gauge interest. Further cultivation and details will be executed in Phase II once programming has been solidified and development funds have been raised.
- Global Entrepreneurship Week participation by IB 303 students occurred in November of 2021. Start-Up Week will be held in April of 2022.
- Attend the quarterly Invent Penn State meetings at University Park.
- Continue to meet with key community and campus stakeholders to keep everyone abreast of Phase I.
- Begin planning for the launch of the Entrepreneurship Club in the Fall of 2022 as well as the steps necessary to offer dual enrollment courses in local high schools.
Stack One: Social and Emotional Intelligence
From the Covid-19 pandemic to the era of globalization and technology to the great resignation, the workplace is undergoing rapid changes. Workforce dynamics are moving from constant human intervention to the automation of many monotonous tasks with artificial intelligence and increased accessibility and scale of data through codes. While digital skills are essential as we move into the future workplace, we must also understand the importance of being innately human. Social and emotional intelligence, or what is also commonly referred to as the emotional quotient, are qualities that are becoming imperative.
Stack Two: Lateral Thinking
In a period of continual change and transformation, the need for lateral thinking or finding the possibility of resolving problems with an innovative approach is crucial. If Design Thinking is how we explore and solve problems, and Lean is the framework for testing our beliefs and learning our way to the proper outcomes, and Agile is how we adapt to changing conditions, having a foundational knowledge of all three through an entrepreneurial lens would improve our lateral thinking capabilities.
“Penn State on the Go” Pop-Up Learning Experiences
Immersive, interactive one-hour learning experiences held in-person focused on enhancing the students’ entrepreneurial mindset, run and hosted by areas experts. All participants will be provided access to a mentor to ask and practice entrepreneurial skills during the session. The roll-out of this program will begin upon successful implementation of the first two stacks. The initial session would focus on practicing lateral thinking. A tentative launch date for this program is early 2023. LSEO, a local growth start-up well known in the region, has shown great interest in partnering with us to design and implement this program.
Keystone Coding and Careers Program
Keystone Coding and Careers (KCC) aims to create an engaging program for students in grades 9-12 to learn STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) skills while exploring careers in computer science. The program will focus heavily on the entrepreneurial mindset and career pathways.
Penn State Wilkes-Barre is partnering with Junior Achievement of NEPA, with support from The Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, to design and deliver the program through our Continuing Education department. Under the Invent Penn State initiative, the program will evolve the existing Coding the Coal Region program into a sustainable and flexible series of courses.
The desired outcome of KCC is to provide the opportunity for students to obtain STEAM skills, explore their interests, and gain awareness of the emerging career pathways available to them.
Phase 1 Outcomes
Phase One of the program commenced in 2021 and included the following outcomes:
- Created a project plan
- Created a list of courses to develop for the initial soft launch (see descriptions below)
- Entered a Memorandum of Understanding with all parties
- Coordinated with Junior Achievement of NEPA
- Coordinated with the Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Aligned the project with the IDEA Hub
Course 1: Python 101
Students will learn about what it means to be a programmer and how programs are developed during this course. They will be introduced to programming pioneers, career opportunities, and what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset.
Basic programming skills will be taught using Python and guest speaker(s) will share their real-world experience. By the end of this course students will be ready to learn more advanced programming techniques. No existing programming skills are required.
Course 2: Robotics 101
This course will explore the use and programming of microcontrollers in everyday life. Students will learn about the Arduino microcontroller and the basics of programming by working on simple and fun projects.
During this course students will learn why microcontrollers are important and meet a developer who uses them in their career. No previous programming or electrical engineering experience is required. By the end of this course students will understand the basics of microcontrollers, be able to write simple programs, understand career pathways, and be ready to work independently.
Phase II and Beyond Outcomes
- Continue to apply for grant funding for the development of courses to commence with target launch dates for pilots scheduled for the Fall of 2022
- Continue to work with the Development Office on the endowment match
- Conduct additional focus groups and polls with key stakeholders in the community
- Seek support within the community to successfully achieve a soft launch for the target date in the Fall of 2022 pending funding received and courses designed