Virtual enterprises

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In Southern Italy virtual businesses are providing real experiences for students in schools. Abruzzi, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily (Italy) which are the Objective 1 areas of Southern Italy, an innovative training method based on the creation of “virtual” enterprises is helping schools to bridge the gap between education and employment.

Policy context

It is generally recognised that schools have a pivotal role to play in preparing young people for working life. In recent years, as schools respond to changes in society, there has been a greater emphasis on promoting a culture of adaptability, mobility and flexibility, and the role of schools in facilitating the transition from education to the world of work has begun to receive greater attention.

In Southern Italy schools have undergone profound changes in the last decade, with a significant upgrading of infrastructure and technology. This transformation has been assisted by the EU, which has part-funded investment in new laboratories, equipment and computer networks.

Description

In the technical and professional schools of Southern Italy the EU has contributed to the development of an innovative training method based on the creation of “virtual” enterprises, sometimes known as “practice firms” or “simulated enterprises”. Using the latest technology, “Virtual” enterprises, such as banks, travel agencies and trading companies have been setup in schools to simulate commercial activities and work processes in an authentic business setting.

Students taking part have the opportunity to experience the day-to-day life of an enterprise, thereby acquiring skills needed in the labour market. The only difference between a real and a “virtual” business is that no exchange of physical goods or services, or real money takes place.

An important factor in the success of the simulated enterprise scheme is the link between the participating schools and real businesses operating in the locality. Every “virtual” business is matched with a “tutoring firm,” which provides the model to be followed in terms of administrative organisation, marketing of products and the updating of material. Tutors from these firms collaborate with schools in, for example, drawing up product catalogues, planning market research and analysing budgets.

The schools in Southern Italy are part of a national Simulated Enterprises Network and many countries besides Italy are also actively involved in this concept. Thus Italian schools can also conduct commercial transactions (e-commerce) with other participant schools, both nationally and internationally. In addition, students have the opportunity to meet at local, national and international “simulated enterprise” fairs.

During the period 1994-1999 the EU part-funded the setting up of 47 simulation centres, equipping schools with hardware and specialist software.

Technical information

Project: Simulated Enterprises project, Programme: Objective 1 Total cost EUR 4 872 876 EU contribution EUR 2 436 438 Contact Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca (MIUR) Ufficio V Direzione generale per le Relazioni internazionali Leuzzi, Annamaria Viale Trastevere 76/A I-00153 , Roma Italia Tel.: +39 06 58492953 Fax: +39 06 58492770 E-Mail: dgcult.div5@istruzione.it Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca