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The company belongs to the students

In spite of being relatively new, the Deputado Salim Sedeh technical school, of the Paula Souza Center, in the city of Leme (SP), with its courses in information technology and business management, took on a new look and gained greater importance over the last three years, thanks to the Young Company, implanted by the project coordinated James Patrick Maher and Maria Isabel Nogueira Tupy, who teach at Unicamp's School of Education. Three goals gave direction to this research project: to seek professional placement for the pupils, to improve the quality of teaching, and to raise private funds for investments and for the maintenance of the school. Its inauguration, in March 1999, attracted the presence of representatives from the Commercial Association and got coverage in the city's media.

The Young Company defined visual communication as its area of activity, placing in the market pamphlets, banners, and – its organizers guarantee – high quality multimedia advertising, at competitive prices. It is an association, with its own statutes and articles of association, taxpayer's registration number and invoices books, and it pays its taxes normally. It just has no labor contracts: the students are under a trainee contract. Students, researchers, and the five grant-holding teachers took part in its start. The name and logo were chosen in a competition open to everybody.

It was also the pupils' job to discuss the statutes, to define the criteria for the selection of the trainees (since not all of them could take part in the company at the same time), and to create a publicity campaign. A room was adapted for the activities of production and administration, complete with equipment (computers, printers, etc.), bought with Fapesp's funding. The grant-holding teachers took the Training for Young Businessmen course, run by Sebrae – the Support Service for Small Businesses, and passed on the knowledge they had acquired to their pupils. In parallel, they also took a course to qualify them to use the equipment and programs for rapid graphics that they would be using.

“We all learned from the experience. Our area of activity is education, and the area of the grant-holding teachers is teaching business management and information technology. Nobody was a businessman. We had to learn how to manage the company and apply in practice the knowledge acquired on the Sebrae course, including everything from founding the company to producing price estimates and orders, along with the students”, says Maria Isabel. “But the results were surprising.” Of the 56 pupils who have now been through the company, 31 have been introduced to the job market, 18 went on with their studies, including going to college, and are still trainees.

The objective of placement in the market is being achieved. In addition, the methodology of teaching at the school was modified. The trainees began to question teachers not involved in the project – and they had to reassess and restructure their subject matter, as they often used imaginary examples and even out of date laws in their lessons. The pupils also started valuing more their studies, with a better understanding of the theory, through the day to day practice in the company.

With the end of the project, this September, the equipment acquired will be passed on to the school. And the school will carry on the Young Company project. As Maria Isabel says, “besides meeting the objectives as proposed, the Young Company project has opened up the prospects for doing something outside the daily routine at school”.