Do you want to start a vocational school business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a vocational school business with NO money and no experience plus a sample vocational school business plan template. In case you don’t know, there are loads of opportunities for those who run vocational schools in the united states of America and in all the countries of the world.

There are countless number of people out there who are trying to acquire skills that will enable them put food on their table, pay their bills and ultimately become their own boss, and a vocational school is just an ideal place they can get the journey started.

You can be rest assured that your services will always be in demand not only by young people or old people who could not make it to the university or college, but also graduates who would want to start a skill based business of their own. The truth is that if your vocational school has loads of courses (trades) and it is government approved, then you may not have to struggle to persuade students to enroll in your school.

Just like most business, the trade and technical school industry is open to as many people as are interested in the industry as long as you have what it takes to run an accredited vocational school. Even if you don’t have the finance and other requirements for starting a standard vocational school with loads of courses, you can come into the industry by starting out as a small music school or driving school et al in your neighborhood.

If you have decided to start a vocational school, then you should make sure that you carry out thorough feasibility studies and also market survey. This will enable you properly locate the school in a community or city with the right demography; a location that can readily accept your services.

So, if you have done the required feasibility studies and market research, then you might want to venture into this business. If you have been pondering on starting your own vocational school, but do not know how to go about it, then you should consider going through this article; it will sure give you the needed guide and direction.

17 Steps to Starting a Vocational School

1. Understand the Industry

Establishments in the trade and technical schools industry comprise of schools that offer vocational and technical training in a wide range of technical subjects and trades. The training offered by trade and technical schools often leads to job-specific certification.

Instruction may be provided in diverse settings, such as the company’s training facilities, the workplace, and the home or through distance-learning methods. Key areas in this industry include music schools and musical instrument training, cosmetology and barber schools, flight training, apprenticeship training and other technical training.

If you are a keen follower of the Trade and Technical Schools industry in the United States, you will agree that the industry has experienced fluctuations over the last five years due to the recession and stagnant growth in federal funding for such schools.

High unemployment has caused individuals to seek out further education, while employers are increasing their training requirements to remain competitive. Going forward, decreasing unemployment rates combined with the increasing tuition of four-year colleges will both boost enrollment in vocational training, and aid industry growth.

The Trade and Technical Schools industry is indeed a large industry and pretty much active in countries such as United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Australia and Canada. Statistics has it that in the United States of America alone, there are about 8,876 registered and licensed (accredited) trade and technical schools scattered all across the United States responsible for employing about 127,260 people and the industry rakes in a whooping sum of $13 billion annually.

The industry grew at -1.1 percent annual growth between 2011 and 2016. It is important to state that there are no establishments in this industry that has a lion market share. A recent report released by IBISWorld shows that the Trade and Technical Schools industry operates in a counter-cyclical manner. Sluggish economic activity helped the industry to grow as the unemployed sought professional training to improve their job prospects. As national unemployment has decreased in recent years, so has industry revenue.

The report further stated that in recent years, the restructuring of the US economy has accelerated. Service industry professions are in higher demand than ever, while growth in manufacturing continues to fail to impress. As a result, individuals displaced by major economic changes are still retooling their skill sets.

Due to the fact that it can be somehow stressful to get government accreditation for a standard vocational school in the United States, it will be safe to say the industry is under saturated. It is important to state that entrepreneurs who are into training people on various trades/skills such as how to drive, how to play musical instrument, how to cook and how to dance et al can easily be found without stress.

Over and above, starting a vocational school requires professionalism and a good grasp of the trade you want to teach people and the overall trade and technical schools industry. Besides, you would need to get the required certifications and license (accreditations) and also meet the standard for such business before you can be allowed to start a standard vocational school in the United States.

One good thing about the trade and technical schools industry/vocational schools is that there is a readily available market for their services simply because individuals and even organizations naturally would want to acquire skills and training that will further enhance them. So, if you are well positioned and you know how to impart trade and technical skills to students, you will always smile to the bank.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who require the services of vocational schools cut across individuals, corporate organizations, aspiring entrepreneurs and religious organizations who need to acquire trade and technical skill set.

So, if you are looking towards defining the demographics for your vocational school, then you should make it all encompassing.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

If you have plans of starting a vocational school, you just have to carve out niche areas that you need to specialize in. This is so because there are loads of trade and technical skills that can be thought in a vocational school and it is a fact that a vocational school will find it extremely difficult to summon the capacity to teach all the trades and technical skills that are available.

These are some of the niche ideas a vocational school can choose from;

  • Barber colleges
  • Beauty schools
  • Flight training schools
  • Apprenticeship training programs
  • Commercial or graphic art schools
  • Bar tending schools
  • Electronic equipment repair training schools
  • Firefighter training schools
  • Medical technician schools
  • Real estate schools
The Level of Competition in the Industry

The level of competition in the trade and technical schools industry depends largely on your area of specialization and how big and organized your vocational school is.

The truth is that no matter the level of competition in an industry, if you have done your due diligence and you brand and promote your products or services properly, you will always make headway in the industry. Just ensure you have what it takes to proffer the right trade and technical training solution to people and organizations; and you know how to reach out to your target market.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

In every industry, there are always brands that perform better or are better regarded by customers and the general public than others. Some of these brands are those that have been in the industry for a long time, while others are best known for how they conduct their businesses and the results they have achieved over the years.

These are some of the leading vocational schools/brands in the United States of America and also in the globe;

  • Bergen County Technical School – Teterboro
  • Central Nine Career Center
  • NCK Technical College
  • Tolles Career & Technical Center
  • Tennessee Technology Center
  • Anoka Technical College
  • Northeast Technical Institute
  • Howard Co Junior College
  • Southern Regional Technical College
  • Indian Capital Technology Center
  • Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School
  • Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School
  • Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School
  • Passaic County Technical Institute
  • US Aviation Academy
  • Florida Flyers Flight Academy – Aviation Flight School
  • Northeast Technology Center – Kansas Campus
  • Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School
  • Southeast Career Technical Academy
  • Morris County School of Technology
Economic Analysis

When it comes to starting a vocational school, you need to get your feasibility studies and market research right before venturing into the business. It is good to mention that starting a standard vocational school is not for rookies; it is for professionals who have gathered the required experience and expertise to train people and organizations on various trades and technical skills set.

Starting this kind of business definitely entails that you acquire the required degree and profession certifications, government approval/accreditation and also build good working relationship with stakeholders in the industry. If you are already a major player in the trade and technical schools cum education industry before venturing out to start your own vocational school, this might not be an issue.

Depending on the scale at which you want to start from, you might require as much as multiple thousands of dollars to strike this off and at the same time you might need far less than that if you choose to start the school by teaching/training people on just a minimal trade or technical skill set.

You will be expected to hire the services of experts that will help you with comprehensive economic and cost analysis and the profitability of the businesses within the location that you intend launching the business. If you get your economic and cost analysis right before launching the business, you may not have to stay the long before you break even.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

When it comes to starting a business of this nature, it will pay you to buy the franchise of a successful and well – established vocational school as against starting from the scratch. Even though it is relatively expensive to buy the franchise of an established and accredited vocational school, but it will definitely pay you in the long run.

But if you truly want to build your own brand after you must have proved your worth in the trade and technical schools industry, then you might just want to start your own vocational school from the scratch. The truth is that it will pay you in the long run to start your vocational school from the scratch. Starting from the scratch will afford you the opportunity to conduct thorough market survey and feasibility studies before choosing a location to launch the business.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you decide to start your own vocational school today, one of the major challenges you may face is the presence of well – established vocational schools and also other related skill acquisition centers who are offering same training/ services that you intend offering. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market niche.

Other threats that you are likely going to face as a vocational school operating in the United States are unfavorable government policies, the arrival of a competitor within your location of operation and global economic downturn which may affect businesses such as vocational school. There is hardly anything you can do as regards these threats other than to be optimistic that things will continue to work for your good.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

Generally, you have the option of either choosing a general partnership, or limited liability company which is commonly called an LLC for a business such as a vocational school. Ordinarily, general partnership should have been the ideal business structure for a small – scale vocational school especially if you are just starting out with a moderate startup capital.

But people prefer limited liability Company for obvious reasons. As a matter of fact, if your intention is to grow the business and have students both corporate and individual from all across the United States of America and other countries of the world, then choosing general partnership is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC will cut it for you.

For example, Setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholders meetings and other managerial formalities.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

Generally, when it comes to choosing a name for a business, it is expected that you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. If you are considering starting your own vocational school, here are some catchy names that you can choose from:

  • Acclaim Beauty College
  • Northwest Cosmetology Institute
  • Harry Gray Barbing College
  • Eastern Regional Technical College
  • Grace Capital Technology Center
  • Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School
  • Cross-County Regional Vocational Technical Institute
  • Richmond Valley Electronic Equipment Repair Training Schools
  • Pristine Commercial and Graphic Art Schools
  • Chris Jones Aviation Academy

9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In the United States of America and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from. So, it is imperative to create a budget for insurance policy covers and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your vocational school.

Here are some of the basic insurance policy covers that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own vocational school in the United States of America;

  • General insurance
  • Risk Insurance
  • Financial reinsurance
  • Health insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Workers Compensation
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance
  • Payment protection insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If you are considering starting your own vocational school, usually you are required to file for intellectual property protection/trademark. This is because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to challenge organizations and individuals in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

So also, if you want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and media production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection. If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO. The final approval of your trademark is subjected to the review of attorneys as required by USPTO.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Aside from the results you produce as it relates to training your students on various trade and technical skills set, professional certification is one of the main reasons why most vocational school stand out. If you want to make impact in the trade and technical schools industry, you should work towards acquiring all the needed certifications in your area of specialization.

Certification validates your competency and shows that you are highly skilled, committed to your career and up-to-date in this competitive market. These are some of the certifications you can work towards achieving if you want to run your own vocational school;

  • Certified Technical Skill Trainer
  • Certification in a Niche Area (Trade and Technical Vocation)
  • Degree or Diploma in Trade Related Courses

Please note that you cannot successfully run a vocational school in the United States and in most countries of the world without necessarily acquiring professional certifications and business license (accreditation from regulating bodies) even if you have adequate experience cum background in the trade and technical schools industry.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own vocational school in the United States of America;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Federal Tax Payer’s ID
  • State Permit
  • Accreditation Letter
  • Business License and Certification
  • Business Plan
  • Education/Training Curriculum
  • Non – disclosure Agreement
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy
  • Consulting contract documents
  • Online Terms of Use
  • Online Privacy Policy Document
  • Apostille (for those who intend operating beyond the United States of America)
  • Company Bylaws
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Aside from the required certifications and hands-on experience, starting a vocational school can be cost effective. Securing a standard school facility in a good business district, equipping the school with the needed training instruments, equipment and tools and paying your employees are part of what will consume a large chunk of your startup capital.

No doubt when it comes to financing a business, one of the major factors that you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business or to partner with you.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for startup capital for your vocational school;

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

Vocational schools and most training and educational based type of businesses require that you see physically with your clients (students) hence it must be located in good location; a location that is prone to both human and vehicular traffic and a location that is at the epicenter of an educational environment if indeed you want to enroll loads of students in your vocational school and maximize profits from the business.

Most importantly, before choosing a location for your vocational school, ensure that you first conduct a thorough feasibility studies and market survey. The possibility of you coming across similar vocational school that just closed shop in the location you want to open yours can’t be ruled out.

These are some of the key factors that you should consider before choosing a location for your vocational school;

  • The demography of the location
  • The demand for the skill acquisition in the location
  • The purchasing power of the residents of the location
  • Accessibility of the location
  • The number of vocational schools and related skill acquisition centers in the location
  • The local laws and regulations in the community/state
  • Traffic, parking and security et al

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

On the average, there is no special technology or equipment needed to run a vocational school except for the equipment and technology the students will need for practical sessions. In essence the equipment, machine, tools and instrument a vocational school need to have in place are dependent on their niche area.

You will definitely need computers/laptops, internet facility, telephone, fax machine and office furniture (chairs, tables, and shelves). These machines, equipment, tools and instrument can be purchased as fairly used especially if you have limited finance to meet your budget.

As regards the number of employees that you are expected to kick start the business with, you would need to consider your finance before making the decision. Averagely, you would need a Chief Executive Officer/Principal Partner, School Administrator, Teachers/Instructors/Coaches, Business Developer, Accountant (Bursar), Customer Service Executive/Front Desk Officer.

Over and above, you would need a minimum of 5 to 10 key staff to effectively run a medium scale but standard vocational school. Please note that there will be times when you are expected to go out of your way to hire experts to help you handle some high-profile students especially from big corporations. If you are just starting out you may not have the financial capacity or required business structure to retain all the professionals that are expected to work with you.

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

Vocational schools and skill acquisition centers are established with the aim of teaching students technical and trade skill set. In essence, a student is expected to enroll in a vocational school if they have the trade or technical skills he or she wants to acquire in the list of their courses.

For example, a vocational school that is into teaching students how to repair electric equipment and electronics will definitely create curriculum that will take care of training an unskilled person who enrolled into their vocational school into becoming skilled.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

As a vocational school, you would have to prove your worth over and over again before attracting corporate organizations and individuals to enroll in your vocational school. So, if you have plans to start your own vocational school, it will pay you to build first build a successful career in the trade and technical schools industry.

So, when you are drafting your marketing plans and strategies for your vocational school, make sure that you create a compelling personal and company profile. Aside from your qualifications and experience, it is important to clearly state in practical terms what you have been able to achieve in time past as it relates to the technical schools industry and the organizations you have trained with. This will help boost your chances in the market place when sourcing for students and corporate clients.

Please note that in most cases when sourcing for clients from corporate organizations and other institutions, you will be called upon to defend your proposal, so you must be pretty good with presentations. Here are some of the platforms you can utilize to market your vocational school;

  • Introduce your business by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to all the corporate organizations, high school leavers, churches and other religious centers, local community, aspiring entrepreneurs and households within and outside the city you are operating in who have the capacity to pay for your services
  • Advertise your vocational school in relevant magazines, radio and TV stations (make yourself available for trade and technical skills related talk shows and interactive sessions on TV and Radio)
  • List your vocational school on local directories/yellow pages
  • Attend international vocational education expos, seminars and business fairs
  • Create different packages for different category of students and clients in order to work with their budget
  • Leverage on the internet to promote your vocational school
  • Join local chambers of commerce and industries around you with the main aim of networking and marketing your services; you are likely going to get referrals from such networks.
  • Engage the services of marketing executives and business developers to carry out direct marketing

17. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

If your intention of starting a vocational school is to grow the school beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.

In promoting your brand and corporate identity, you should leverage on both print and electronic media and also social media (the internet). As a matter of fact, it is cost effective to use the internet and social media platforms to promote your brands, besides it is pretty much effective and wide reaching.

Below are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand and to promote and advertise your vocational school;

  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas in and around our neighborhood
  • Ensure that you position your banners and billboards in strategic positions all around your city
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Badoo, Google+ and other platforms to promote your vocational school.
  • Encourage the use of word of mouth publicity from your loyal customers
  • Place adverts on educational related magazines and newspapers, radio and TV stations
  • Contact corporate organizations, high school leavers, churches and other religious centers, local community, aspiring entrepreneurs and households within and outside the city you are operating in who have the capacity to pay for your services by calling them up and informing them of your organization and the vocational training you offer
  • Advertise your vocational school in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
  • Brand all your official cars and ensure that all your line and management staff wear your branded shirt or cap at regular intervals.
Joy Nwokoro