Business Enterprise Program
The Business Enterprise Program (BEP) at Gentry affords training to individuals who are legally blind which can result in self-employment opportunities in the vending and foodservice industry. This program, enacted by the Randolph Sheppard Act, has a presence in most states. Persons licensed under BEP operate businesses ranging from vending, food service, micro-markets, snack bars, limited food prep, dining halls and cafeterias within federal, state, or private entities.
The BEP State Licensing Agency (SLA) requires candidates to meet the following criteria: legally blind, a U.S. citizen over the age of eighteen, and a domicile resident of the state of Alabama. Potential candidates are referred to Gentry for a BEP vocational evaluation which includes physical, academic, orientation/mobility, independent living, assistive technology, and mental math assessments. In addition, candidates are required to possess a reading and writing medium to effectively communicate during training within the classroom and work settings. Participants in Gentry’s BEP program are required to post scores on the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) at or above the 10th grade level in reading, language, and math. Students who do not meet these requirements will be required to participate in remedial classes in academics, assistive technology, orientation/mobility, print/braille, and/or independent living classes with a goal of improving their performance to meet the established prerequisites.
Participants who meet the requirements will follow an established BEP curriculum written and developed by Auburn University. The curriculum includes the mastery of the following topics and skills:
Federal/State Guidelines for BEP - Demonstrate mastery of federal and state guidelines related to recruitment, training, licensing, and placement of individuals who are blind. The Randolph Sheppard Act of 1936 include the federal guidelines which was first enacted to enhance employment opportunities for trained, licensed blind persons to operate vending/food service facilities. Over the years, the original federal act has been revised, and in addition, each state has developed their own Mini-Randolph Sheppard Acts which include guidelines and regulations that differ from state to state. Gentry BEP candidates are trained according to Alabama guidelines and their training/certification, while recognized throughout the state, will not be acknowledged or transferrable to other states.
ServSafe - Participate in classroom instruction and practice skills needed to pass and obtain a ServeSafe: Food Protection Manager Certification. Students practice safe food handling techniques within the Gentry Café under the supervision of the BEP instructor and/or the BEP classroom aide.
Small Business Operation - Outlines procedures for maintaining business financial records required to operate a productive and profitable vending business. Students learn key skills, such as how to recruit and hire employees, maintain and report staff records, and apply for a business license. Inventory management skills including ordering, receiving, and stocking are developed. BEP students also receive instruction within Gentry’s Assistive Technology Department and learn computer software applications which can be used to record data and generate spreadsheets on vending machine costs, expenditures, and profits. BEP instructors teach and supervise students as they practice money-handling techniques such as using coin separators and electronic bill identifiers, rolling coins, plus making bank deposits.
Vending Operation - Participants learn vending machine components, operation, and maintenance and are exposed to a variety of vending machines which are maintained on Gentry’s campus for training purposes. Additionally, BEP students are afforded hands-on experience stocking vending machines on multiple AIDB campuses.
Snack Bar/Cafe Operation - Classroom instruction and work experience within the Gentry Café allows BEP students to learn and practice their culinary skills and safe food handling methods, plus develop key customer service skills such as stocking, purchasing and managing inventory, and operating a cash register.
Experiential Learning - Gentry affords BEP students diverse experiences including field trips to various BEP vending sites, along with opportunities to attend professional conferences and meetings of federal, state, and local organizations which advocate for the blind or visually impaired. In addition, vendor job shadowing provides hands-on experience working with an experienced BEP vendor to provide practical work experience and enhance personal BEP work skills.
For more information on the BEP contact:
Director, Rod Skene
Instructor, Susan Sarro