Young: Classroom path to entrepreneurship

More than 2,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer classes in entrepreneurship.

Any academic campus can become an ideal incubator for hatching the pathway to entrepreneurial pursuit.

In the Okanagan region, we are blessed to have universities, colleges and private institutions at our fingertips to prompt us into taking the magical carpet ride 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 to research today’s column was that according to the Kauffman Entrepreneurship Foundation, based in Kansas City, Miss., more than 2,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer a class and often an entire course of study in entrepreneurship.

That is significantly upward from the 253 institutions in 1985.

And more than 200,000 students are enrolled in such programs compared with 16,000 in 1985.

As for Canada, we are far from where we could and should be.

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. Even other nations 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 underestimated proportion of the workforce? Or only the gazelles we hope will become tomorrow’s Google or Intel?

Entrepreneurship in the classroom—that reality is right in front of us 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 newspaper front pages, the decline in pension offerings and salary hikes, many employees choose to tough it out on their own.

Can we blame them for considering another option for their lives?

So how has the academic world adjusted to the changes around us? It is frequently been reported that students who participate in entrepreneurship programs demonstrate increased initiative and self-confidence.

Infused with entrepreneurship principles and standards helps students to learn how to apply practical skills and solve problems using the touchstones of innovation and creativity.

Better yet, when institutions inject both theory and practicality into their curricula giving students a realistic idea of entrepreneurship in real-world examples, students embrace wholeheartedly the self-employment imagery for their future lives.

More simply put, if there is a formal connection between classroom learning and hands-on extracurricular activity to actually start your own school-based entrepreneurial venture, then the concept thrives.

The demand for and value of substa ntive entrepreneurship programs at all levels of our education system is increasingly apparent.

With so many factory jobs now outsourced, with opportunities emerging in new sectors, our schools can help 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, our young people are recognizing that their futures will depend on their ability to be creative, innovative and flexible—to behave entrepreneurial.

The market has spoken and are schools now have the “open door” to respond.

We are genuinely in the midst of a revolution in new and enhanced thinking, finding new approaches to teaching entrepreneurship at all levels of our Canadian educational system.

This shift in thinking makes considerable sense to me in terms of providing critical skills for students and potential students and is also critical to aid in stimulating local economic activity.

If you trace the history of any well known business cluster or persons, you’ll invariably find a small group of informed entrepreneurs who grew and spawned new entrepreneurship.

Let’s add our piece of history right here at home in our beautiful Okanagan Valley, shall we?

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