This past weekend, I had the privilege to be, for the day, both a student entrepreneurial coach and one of the judges of an eight-team competition at UBCO.
What fun we all had mingling with students, faculty, visiting entrepreneurs and guests. I am convinced I made a handful of new acquaintances and was very encouraged by the words that suggested an entrepreneurial spirit has evolved on campus that will be pursued and embraced for years to come.
As a result of this enjoyable experience, it has inspired me to share with you some words on my take of this rising tide of student entrepreneurship on both UBCO and Okanagan College campuses.
First of all, let’s be clear, student entrepreneurship is truly an effective strategy to prepare our young people to become successful in that remarkable sector of our Canadian economy.
Student entrepreneurship may be comprised of a program or activity that takes students through the entrepreneurial process in its entirety, and what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur and small business owner.
It represents preparing our young folks to understand all dimensions of this process and learn about becoming your own boss, which in many surveys in Canada and the USA was an answer that quickly rose to the top of the chart.
Student entrepreneurship may take the form of school-based businesses that students help to set up and run, curricula that guides students through the process of creating business plans, working with local entrepreneurs and other community resources to plan and run enterprises, or any combination of these activities.
This past Saturday, while at the UBC event, I was exposed to some very innovative venture ideas by the eight participating teams, which informed all of us present of the mind-bending thought processes the students had undertaken.
We are constantly reminded in our beloved Okanagan, of the wealth of entrepreneurial talent in our communities which are an excellent resource to tap for assistance and hands-on experiences for student entrepreneurship.
Student entrepreneurship, undoubtedly enable students to make connections across academic disciplines in a real life, experiental context.
Students have the undying opportunity to participate in designing their own learning curve and are thus motivated to think, plan and act as genuine entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship encourages all students to work in teams and to engage in each aspect of running an entrepreneurial venture: product or service design as well as production, quality control, marketing, sales, and financial bookkeeping.
These are truthfully skills that students ordinarily may not have the opportunity to learn in school.
Additionally, dear readers, students will embrace pride as they have the opportunity to earn money in an entrepreneurial pursuit for their schools and community projects.
Student entrepreneurship gives schools the chance to expose students to situations outside of the usual curriculum (as in the UBCO experience of last weekend which had teams of four or five students each participate to teach students a variety of business techniques and new and emerging technologies.
In rural communities, such as the Okanagan, with only a few employers of substantial size, student entrepreneurship may, in fact, offer the best learning environment which connect the participating students to the world of innovation, creativity and….work.
I don’t want to forget some additional benefits of student entrepreneurship as I am hoping that both UBCO and Okanagan College professors will read this column.
Students gain valuable knowledge of the business and industry world including:
• The vocabulary of the business world, and our economic system.
• Characteristics and behaviours of successful entrepreneurs, exploration of career possibilities provided by running one’s own venture.
• The process of planning, financing, and writing a viable business plan.
• The legal requirements of operating a small business, including structure, taxes, licences, permits and bookkeeping.
• The self-knowledge and aptitude required of entrepreneurship, the ability to know one’s own strengths and weaknesses, to analyze feasibility and to take risks.
As I was researching with my network of entrepreneurship academics, I decided to zero in on key factors in setting up and establishing a student entrepreneurship environment within our campuses and came up with a short list of key criteria for your reading pleasure:
• Secure support from relevant leaders from both within and external to your academic structures;
• Identify student interests ( discovering what their interests may realistically be)
• Prepare teachers for the impending change in their classrooms
• Develop business and industry contacts within the economic and business development professional community.
• Develop the entrepreneurship curriculum …( vital for this environmental exercise so students will see the learning standards for how they will be assessed.
• Student entrepreneurship offers valuable opportunities for performance-based assessments as students will need time to reflect on their work and what they have learned through the use of journals and discussion.
This sums up my leaning to the quest for student entrepreneurship endeavour within a given region, our region from both within and external to the classroom.
We are truly moving in that direction and this entrepreneur can’t help but be excited.
Thank you students, thank you institutions and thank you Okanagan entrepreneurs.
Joel Young is an entrepreneurial leadership educator, consultant, coach and founder of the Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.