Local students get crash course in running a co-op business

Local students get crash course in running a co-op business

Education is important and it is one of the seven principles that guide electric cooperatives. A&N Electric Cooperative is proud to offer educational opportunities for local students.

Each spring, the Virginia Cooperative Council sponsors an Institute on Cooperative Education, a youth leadership conference for up to 64 Virginia high school students.

Local students from A&N Electric Cooperative’s service area are eligible to attend. The cooperative holds an annual essay contest to determine the cooperative’s participants in two educational opportunities, which includes the VICE Conference.

The objective of the conference is to educate youth about the unique cooperative form of business.

This year Broadwater Academy’s Kaitlyn Hill, Nandua High School's Justin Willett and Chincoteague High School’s Caitlyn Williams represented A&N Electric Cooperative at the VICE Conference.

“In the beginning, I really didn’t know what a co-op was,” said Willett. “I learned that a co-op is a business that is run by the people it serves. The experience was great and it taught me how to run a co-op and what a co-op really means.”

Through an interactive, educational, and entertaining conference, students enhance their teamwork, leadership, and communication skills.

The conference features a computer-based business simulation developed by Perdue University called “Who’s Minding the Store.”

Students are divided into teams and teams compete against one another over five rounds of the simulation.

Each team represents a separate co-op business, each attempting to make pricing, inventory, advertising, credit, and personnel decisions to increase their co-op’s net worth in a competitive market setting. Students are first presented with basic business concepts and are then allowed to make their first set of management decisions.

When the results of their decisions are returned, students learn how to interpret the effects and how to adjust their decision-making to yield more desirable outcome. In addition, they learn how to read balance sheets and income statements, and how to use values from the statements to calculate ratios that indicate the financial wellbeing of the business.

Willett said teams need to work together to make sound decisions about the business in the long term or the business will suffer.

“You have to make sure that you make the right choices all the time or later down the road your business is going to go down, a lot,” Willett said.

Throughout the conference teambuilding helps forge new friendships and bonds between students.

“It was a really good experience to meet the kids that were there from all across Virginia and it just taught me to go out of my comfort zone and meet new people,” Willett said. “I didn’t know anybody going in and by the end of it I wasn’t ready to leave. And I met people that I still talk to today.”

The cooperative’s essay contest is open to all high school and home school juniors living in the cooperative’s service area.

A student from each area high school will be selected to attend the VICE Conference in Syria, Va.

Essay guidelines will be sent to the guidance offices at each high school by October 22.

Home schoolers can request the guidelines from the cooperative’s Tasley office. The deadline for essay entrants is December 10, 2018.

The conference is at no cost to students who are selected through the essay contest.

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