Entrepreneurship education - can we make the leap?
Caroline Jenner, CEO of JA Europe
Young people today can spend 20 years in a classroom. As the pace of change outside those walls increases exponentially, the more important it is to ensure that schools and universities are spaces that are in constant interaction with the community outside. Kris Peeters, Deputy Prime Minister for Belgium, on the occasion of the European Youth Forum plenary on April 17th, spoke of the critical importance of entrepreneurship as a career path and what should be an “osmosis” between education and employment rather than a “leap”.
How much do young people know about the working world? How much do they appreciate the multitude of ways that their skills and competences can add value to any organization or a venture of their own? How many practical enterprise experiences and role models or mentors have they had? An Education and Employers Task Force/YouGov survey in the UK found that students who have had more than 4 experiences (i.e. interaction with business/industry while at school, or an entrepreneurship education course), are 5 times less likely to be “NEET” (Not in Education, Employment or Training). 85% of these students said they were happy with the progress of their career compared with 66% who had not had any such experiences.
The recent report by the European Commission called “Entrepreneurship Education: A Road to Success” makes it quite clear why we need to look into significantly improving the uptake of entrepreneurship education in Europe’s schools. It outlines the many impacts to be won:
- Increased likelihood to start a business
- Less likely to be unemployed
- Increased income
- Strengthened skills, attitudes and motivation
- Changes in the culture inside schools
Further evidence of what can be achieved comes from the recent evaluation of 8years of Norway’s "Strategic Plan for Entrepreneurship in the Education System". It recommended that national policy must not water down the notion of the link between entrepreneurship education and value creation, stating that “Entrepreneurship is a key factor for change and development of the society, and expertise in entrepreneurship is a competence, which should be encouraged at all levels of education.”
For all these reasons, the inauguration next week of a new European Entrepreneurship Education NETwork (EE-HUB) is significant progress. The collective efforts at EE-HUB are to be directed at scaling up good practice and reaching significantly more young people (increase penetration rates), rather than questioning the merits of entrepreneurship education per se. Studies consistently underline the importance of cross-ministerial cooperation, the key role of practitioner NGOs, intensive business engagement, embedding entrepreneurship education at all levels and types of education and providing support to teachers.
We can do much more to provide this kind of enabling environment in as many places as possible, as quickly as possible. Considering what there is to gain and how many young people face unemployment each year, it is up to us, the entrepreneurship education community and EE-HUB, to make the most of what we’ve learned.