The Importance of Education for Entrepreneurial Skills in Youth

Besides good grades, education aims to prepare children and youth for life after school and play an active role in society, as well as improve quality of their lives. Entrepreneurial skills are important and require adequate processes to learn and develop specific skills and mindsets. To what extent is education supporting the development of such skills?

In an actively changing world with dynamic economies, entrepreneurship has positioned itself as an important element of social development. Coming up with a bright idea, turning it into reality, and making it financially autonomous and profitable while delivering value to the users is a complex process. And as such, it requires leaders to develop strong growth mindsets and skills to channel efforts and resources effectively and learn over the process. Teaching entrepreneurial skills thus takes a relevant role in this.

Entrepreneurship benefits the market economies through the creation of new products and services, stimulating employment and economic flows in society. An important factor in successful entrepreneurship is innovation and value creation through the products and services offered. As competition with already-consolidated firms is extremely complex, there must be something in that entrepreneurship that creates value for the consumers, resulting in an increase in demand.


Why Entrepreneurial Education Matters

There are many drivers for an entrepreneur to bring their ideas into action: intrinsic motivation, experience, creativity, long for financial autonomy, need for income, unemployment, or others. But regardless of the driver, successful entrepreneurs usually show some ‘common’ skills: effective leadership, interpersonal communications, innovation and creativity, expertise in their product or service, proactivity, and strategic thinking, among others. This leads to some questions: how do entrepreneurs develop these skills? Is education at schools or somewhere else supporting the development of these skills? 

Decades ago schools used to pursue the technical preparation of future workforce for industrial labor. However, the purpose of education has evolved, and so has the world. The future of education is a concern that multiple organizations have been trying to understand, in order to suggest changes in systems. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) studied and organized different skills in an evolving framework called the Learning Compass 2030. Without aiming to provide a learning model nor a curricular proposal, the Learning Compass 2030 aims for connecting core competencies, skills, knowledge, and attitudes, in order to prepare students to become leaders of the integral transformation of our systems, shifting towards sustainable development and well-being. And entrepreneurship actually links these elements and this goal as well.

Entrepreneurial education aims to support students’ skill development with a focus on leadership, innovation, and management. Current research in this field has focused on teacher-training programs, curriculum development, and the mechanisms for entrepreneurship in education at different levels.


Implications of Education for Entrepreneurship

As a cornerstone of entrepreneurial education, innovation emerges as a priority. Education for innovation involves multi-level learning channels, going from interdisciplinary knowledge learning to personal development and skills strengthening. In terms of interdisciplinary knowledge, the competencies pursued by educational curriculums through different subjects are meant to challenge students to link these concepts and think of them with a systemic view. And active learning methodologies, such as project-based and problem-based learning, have shown insightful results for the development of this interdisciplinary thinking. Encouraging students to think out of the box and expand their mindsets allows them to become innovators.

Along with interdisciplinary knowledge, personal development is also important for entrepreneurs. As the leaders of their innovations, entrepreneurs must be able to project confidence and reliability, in order to build effective teams and ensure all the resources and operations to keep start-ups growing and running. Developing such personal mindsets and skills is a different process depending on every person, but mostly focuses on self-awareness and identifying their own strengths and weaknesses, and consolidating them towards life skills. For this process, learning in the classroom is not enough. Non-formal learning experiences are very important. It is necessary to embrace entrepreneurship as an important element for economies and to support the confidence of students and leaders.

Managerial skills are also relevant. Students achieve knowledge iteration through networking and hands-on experiences integrating the environment, organizations, and entrepreneurs. This level of skill development is more visible and feasible at the university level, where students have higher exposure to external multi-actor environments, although other skills developed at the middle and high school level consequently support this learning process at the college level.

To conclude this introductory discussion, entrepreneurial education has different faces that must be considered at every school level. While interpersonal skills and mindsets are developed during childhood and youth, they are not simply learned with books or class sessions. Non-formal learning experiences also contribute to the development of such skills, making the engagement of parents and external actors relevant. Challenging students to see entrepreneurship as a valid process to support economies also matters, and must be introduced as an interesting professional pathway to contribute innovative products and services to society.  But this integral training of future entrepreneurs requires a strong articulation between personal development and technical and managerial skills in middle and high school, with a wider vision and exposure to real-world situations at universities.


Photo: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock


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