Sunday, 19 April 2015

Why developing students as entrepreneurs will make them happy!

A 2013 Global Report survey that questioned 197,000 individuals around the globe revealed that being an entrepreneur was the happiest of all career choices. Not only are they happy with their work conditions but their level of well being also makes them happier. Women entrepreneurs are even happier than their male counterparts.

Why am I writing about this random notion? I believe an entrepreneurial mindset is a key 21 Century competency and if the by-product is greater happiness later in life why would we not direct teach entrepreneurial skills!

US President Barack Obama recently stated that entrepreneurs, working in labs, garages, all across the country are responsible for most of the new jobs in the US. They are working on everything from new sources of clean energy, cures for life threatening diseases and inventions that will transform the way that we see the world. Christchurch is the start-up capital of New Zealand rich with successful local entrepreneurs, EPIC, BIMstop and Re:Start to name a few, and we should be taking advantage of their expertise and enthusiasm.

Competencies that successful entrepreneurs have in common are broadly listed as:
·      Being resilient
·      Being focused on a long-term goal while progressing with short-term goals
·      Being adaptable
·      Using their initiative
·      Having good people skills
·      Articulating their ideas well
·      Staying abreast of new initiatives/trends
·      Be keen to keep learning
·      Constantly self reflecting
·      Being self-reliant

On reflection, schools are trying to develop the same or similar competencies and attitudes in our students every day through the rich curriculum experiences we provide.
Through inquiry learning we expose students to real-life local and global issues helping them to create new knowledge and skills in context to solve problems and even create new solutions. How often though do we expose students to real-life issues in real business environments helping them to develop the entrepreneurial mindset?

Some would argue that we already provide this learning environment stimulating and motivating students to design, market and sell their own innovative products to raise money for worthy causes. I am aware many New Zealand schools undertake the PrEP enterprise programme which, put simply, allows students to develop their own enterprise community by forming a government, developing jobs, running ventures, designing currency and selling products at a school market. It is usually a 2-4 term project or can be an express weeklong programme.

However, I believe, at senior level primary school we should ensure the learning experience goes further to focus on helping students develop an investment type business plan and even setting up and running a micro business. A high level of mentoring from successful local business executives would be essential but a wonderful way to connect school and community.

In essence we are talking transdisciplinary learning (utilising knowledge from multiple disciplines to find a solution) encompassing problem solving, financial literacy, design, making, communication, collaboration, marketing … Allowing students to tinker with ideas connected to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by experimenting, testing out and innovating is a good first step but then allowing students the opportunity to build a business plan and market a product will ensure they will recognise opportunities later in life and more importantly know how to capitalise on them.

Many would say entrepreneurship is the future of the global economy making the world more interconnected and helping young people control their own economic futures. Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs report (2009), states that innovation and entrepreneurship provide a way forward for solving the global challenges of the 21st century, building sustainable development, creating jobs, generating renewed economic growth and advancing human welfare.

The futuristic Norwegian Government’s Strategic Plan (2004-2008) states:

To promote entrepreneurship we must create a better culture for innovation and creativity, and to accomplish this, we must focus on our young. Children and young people must gain confidence in their own creative powers and the ability to see and use local resources as the basis for developing businesses and employment. They must be given the opportunity to see and experience how creativity, personal confidence, drive and the ability to cooperate are vital underpinnings of entrepreneurship and also the basis for being constructive, creative and active at school and home, and at work and play.

Entrepreneurs are not born they are made; now is the time to consciously plan and teach it!

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