by Emma Collins
Editor’s note: Education reform is a hot topic right now, and True North Reports has covered the issue from many angles. The next piece, from business writer Emma Collins, continues the conversation by adding some thoughts on the need for entrepreneurship training at the K-12 level. Ms. Collins has recently completed a review of the top MBA programs in 2012, and is something of an expert on what it takes to succeed in today’s fast-paced business world.
In the United States, entrepreneurs have tended to provide much of the employment that fuels recovery. Even if the current rebound lags behind previous cycles, Americans can still point to Silicon Valley and its start-up culture as symbols of economic dynamism. A new report from the Kauffman Foundation reveals that the pace of recovery in hiring and job creation since 2008 is stronger in newer firms – those two years old or younger – than in more established companies. That report — Job Creation, Worker Churning, and Wages at Young Businesses — is the seventh in a series using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Business Dynamic Statistics.
The report further states that despite elevated worker turnover rates, the percentage of hiring based on job creation is much greater at startups than at more mature firms. Four out of every 10 hires at young firms are for newly created jobs, much higher than in older firms where the ratio fluctuates between 0.25 and 0.33. Post-recession, only startups show signs of recovery in the pace of worker churning, which is critical to improving the allocation of employees to jobs and boosting wage growth over workers’ careers.
The importance of entrepreneurship in bringing about an economic recovery is also being recognized in Europe. To rescue the economy, many under 25s in the United Kingdom are starting their own businesses instead of waiting for firms to begin hiring again, says The Guardian. From selling rugby socks and homemade jewellery to opening their own hairdressing salons, young people are trying all sorts of things to generate money – and some of their ideas are turning into successful businesses. A recent article in the New York Times also points out how The European Association of Communications Agencies, a trade group based in Brussels, has developed an advertising and informational campaign, which aims to encourage young Europeans to take charge of their economic future by starting businesses.
Entrepreneurship no doubt is one of the most powerful ways to improve economic circumstances, but the road to entrepreneurship can be daunting and is not without risk. Martin Zwilling in his Forbes article affirms that building a business is a complex task, and requires focus, discipline, and practice to get it right. Mindtools explains, “While there is no one ‘right’ set of characteristics for being a successful entrepreneur, certain general traits and practical skills will help you succeed.” It suggests that successful entrepreneurs have certain traits in common such as creativity, the ability to keep going in the face of hardship, and the social skills needed to build great teams. It assembles all the qualities and the specific skills that underpin these traits into four categories:
- Personal characteristics;
- Interpersonal skills;
- Critical and creative thinking skills; and
- Practical skills.
Entrepreneur outlines 25 characteristics to start, operate and grow a profitable business. An interview by The Young Entrepreneur Council of 14 successful young entrepreneurs gives additional insight into the skills necessary for becoming a successful entrepreneur.
The needed skills can be developed through entrepreneurially driven improvements in education from preschool through graduate school. A recent US News & World Report article titled “Entrepreneurship Gains Momentum at Business Schools” says that more and more M.B.A. programs have ramped up the number of contests and classes designed to help students learn how to transform a good idea into a good business. According to a 2011 survey of 476 prospective M.B.A.s in 79 countries, entrepreneurship is now among the top five most sought-after areas of course content. However, studies show that in sharp contrast to university education, the system of U.S. K-12 public education does not have an entrepreneurial structure.
Pre-K education in the U.S. is not centrally organized, making it open to entrepreneurial innovation. However, there is very little public financing at this level, so the market is underdeveloped. The standard curriculum at all levels essentially ignores teaching about the role of entrepreneurship.There are a hundred different approaches to entrepreneurship education available, but these are not widely utilized.
Entrepreneurship is crucial to a sustained economy. In 2009 President Obama described entrepreneurship as one of the most powerful ways for individuals to improve their own economic circumstances, and in turn, their lives. Schools should therefore start a new drive to create the next generation of entrepreneurs. Let middle and high schools promote entrepreneurship curriculum that focuses on practice in addition to theory, as articulated by crowdfunding entrepreneur and IndieGoGo CEO Slava Rubin. Create an online platform for MBA students to share and discuss ideas. Such a virtual network, it is claimed, would lead to greater global connections and entrepreneurship opportunities across schools. Or introduce a global training program like the one initiated by Founder Institute in 2009, which requires the students to create a fully operational company before they can graduate.