Young: Practical benefits derived from an entrepreneurial education

The college campus—frankly, almost any academic campus—can become an ideal incubator for hatching the pathway to entrepreneurial pursuit.

The college campus—frankly, almost any academic campus—can become an ideal incubator for hatching the pathway to entrepreneurial pursuit.

In this beautiful region of British Columbia, we are blessed to have universities, colleges and private institutions at our fingertips, able to provide prompt access into the world of entrepreneurial endeavours.

But, we need to knock on their doors and explore what might be beyond the exterior, discover what lays beneath the traditional business course offerings.

What I initially found overwhelming when I began my research  was that according to the Kauffman Entrepreneurship Foundation, based in Kansas City, Missouri, was that more than 2,000 colleges and universities now offer a class and often an entire course of study in entrepreneurship.

That is significantly upward from the 253 institutions in 1985. As well, more than 200,000 students are enrolled in such programs today,  compared with 16,000 in 1985. These figures do not include the numbers comparatively from across Canada, Alaska and the Territories which would dramatically increase the numbers.

Still, we are far from where we could and should be in this great nation of ours.

Everyone admires entrepreneurs. I often choose to believe that every region aspires to become entrepreneurial in nature.

Whether our colleges, universities and private institutions should teach entrepreneurship today—or support entrepreneurs—is a non-issue.

Institutions want students, graduates, faculty and even administrators to behave entrepreneurial.

Other nations marvel at, and work to emulate, the underbelly Canadian entrepreneurial culture.

But, have we got it right yet? Is it really embedded into the culture of our educational system, or is it merely only a sidebar?

Do we truly value the entrepreneurs that want to remain small, agile and independent, who represent a vastly under-estimated proportion of the workforce, or only the gazelles we hope will become tomorrow’s Google or Intel?

Entrepreneurship in the classroom? It’s reality is right in front of us on every single school day and then some.

Entrepreneurship has become an increasing possibility in our modern era, particularly since employees have lost the trust they once had for corporations.

With declining economies and layoffs rampant on the front pages, the decline in pension offerings and roller coaster rides with pensions and salary hikes, it leaves many employees tough it out on their own.

It has frequently been reported that students who participate in entrepreneurship programs demonstrate increased initiative and self-confidence.

It is seen that school interests students at all levels with entrepreneurship principles and standards infused into the curriculum because they can see how practical skills and learning to solve problems combined with the touchstones of innovation and creativity can contribute directly to their future success.

Better yet, when institutions infuse both theory and practicality into their curriculum—giving students a realistic idea of entrepreneurship in real-world examples and when actual entrepreneurs are brought into the classrooms and workshops created that includes the common practices of entrepreneurs—students embrace wholeheartedly the self-employment imagery for their future lives.

Guess what my friends, other victories are witnessed alongside.

School retention and increased grade outcomes in required subject areas results. Simply put, if there is a formal connection between classroom learning and hands-on extracurricular activity as actually starting your own school-based entrepreneurial venture, then the concept thrives.

The demand for and value of substantive entrepreneurship programs at all levels of our education system, in virtually every classroom in one form or another, is increasingly is apparent.

With so many factory jobs now outsourced, with opportunities emerging in new sectors and with values seemingly changing every other day, our schools can help our Canada get back to its entrepreneurial roots like never before.

Frankly, we can and truly ought to be seen as a global leader in entrepreneurship in many dimensions, entrepreneurial education and training being a major one.

As the prospects for a stable single career with one company gradually disappear ( happily, to many astute individuals) our young people are recognizing that their futures will depend on their ability to be creative, innovative, flexible and behaving entrepreneurial.

The market has spoken and are schools have the “open door” to respond. We are genuinely in the midst of a revolution in new and enhanced thinking and new approaches to teaching entrepreneurship at all levels of our Canadian educational system.

Joel Young is an entrepreneurship educator,  consultant and the founder of the Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.

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