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Entrepreneurship education key to sustainable economic upswing

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Education is an essential element of entrepreneurship. Studies show that students who receive entrepreneurship education are not only more likely to be employed, but also more likely to start their own companies. With that in mind, the European Commission has proposed a series of actions that will help expose students to entrepreneurship and, as a result, help create jobs throughout Europe.

Entrepreneurial education is one of the best ways to support growth and generate jobs. New businesses are the single biggest source of new jobs in Europe – and education, to be sure, helps create businesses.

Between 15 % and 20 % of secondary-school students who participate in a mini-company programme – in which students develop or simulate the operations of a real firm – will later start their own companies. This figure is three to six times higher than the general population, highlighting the impact that entrepreneurial education can have on young Europeans.

And even those who don’t start businesses are still better positioned in the job market. According to recent research, 78 % of entrepreneurship education alumni were employed directly after graduating university, compared to just 59 % of a control group of higher education students.

The role of higher education in entrepreneurship goes far beyond classroom teaching and incorporates participation in business ecosystems, partnerships and industrial alliances. With high-tech and high-growth enterprises becoming a focal point of entrepreneurship-related public policies, higher education institutions are an essential component of Member State and EU innovation policies.

However, despite the obvious benefits afforded by this type of specialised education, a recent Eurobarometer Entrepreneurship survey shows that three-quarters of Europeans have never taken part in an entrepreneurship course. Thus, in order to exploit the potential of entrepreneurship education and promote the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, the Commission is proposing a number of actions, including those to:

  • reinforce cooperation with Member States to introduce entrepreneurship education in each country;
  • support public administrations wishing to learn from successful peers;
  • develop a pan-European entrepreneurial learning initiative for impact analysis, knowledge sharing, development of methodologies and peer mentoring;
  • collaborate with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to establish a guidance framework to encourage the development of entrepreneurial schools;
  • disseminate the entrepreneurial university guidance framework, and facilitate exchanges between universities interested in applying it.

Member States are encouraged to:

  • ensure that the key competence ’entrepreneurship’ is embedded into curricula across primary, secondary, vocational, higher and adult education before the end of 2015;
  • offer young people at least one practical entrepreneurial experience before leaving compulsory education, such as running a mini-company or being responsible for an entrepreneurial project for a company or a social project;
  • boost entrepreneurial training for young people and adults with resources which support national job plans, particularly as a tool for second-chance education for those not engaged in education, employment or training;
  • promote entrepreneurial learning modules for young people participating in national Youth Guarantee schemes.

Projects to support entrepreneurship education

Nine projects co-funded by the Commission have already benefitted roughly 6 500 students and young people and 900 teachers. Together, these projects’ indirect effects – which come from dissemination, information activities, production of pedagogical materials, etc. – ensured that they reached at least 100 000 young people.

However, the added value of these European projects lies in their potential for extension, transfer and wider dissemination within the Member States:

  • The Entrepreneurship Summer Academies gave 320 higher education professors, lecturers and assistant professors advanced training on how to teach entrepreneurship. All of these educators committed to become ambassadors of entrepreneurial learning in their respective institutions, thus ensuring a multiplier effect.
  • Creative, innovative pedagogical materials were prepared to be used in the classroom. Work on real business cases is one of the most effective ways to learn about entrepreneurship, but this method is not yet sufficiently widespread, and very often case studies are imported from the United States and do not have a local, European dimension. Thanks to this initiative, 88 new case studies were created, all based on European businesses.
  • Seven new projects aim to address some of the main obstacles that still stand in the way of increasing entrepreneurship education and student participation, such as:
    • training primary, secondary and higher education teachers, because qualified teachers are the largest bottleneck in providing entrepreneurship education;
    • creating a European online platform for educators to facilitate peer coaching, mentoring and advising to broaden support and exchanges beyond national borders;
    • developing new methods and indicators to assess entrepreneurial skills acquired by students.

Among the project coordinators and partners are some of the most important players in the field, like leading universities in entrepreneurship, NGOs and research institutions.

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